Viola Davis says a director called her by his maid’s name, talks colorism in Hollywood

The Oscar, Tony, and Emmy-winning actress sat down with Variety for a conversation at the Cannes Film Festival

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In a powerful and illuminating recent interview with Variety, Viola Davis opened up about her journey throughout Hollywood as a dark-skinned Black actress, revealing stories about her career, including one when a director called her by his maid’s name.

As theGrio previously reported, Davis has had quite the year with the accomplished actress recently releasing her memoir, Finding Me. The book details her journey from a difficult childhood to her drama school days and on to award-winning roles and performances.

It was announced earlier this year that Davis would receive the Cannes Women in Motion Award at this year’s festival, for being one of, “the most influential American actresses and producers of her time.” At the festival, the actress sat down with Variety and told the story about the director who misnamed her.

Kering "Women In Motion" Talks - 75th Cannes Film Festival 2022
: Viola Davis attends Kering “Women In Motion” Talk during 75th Cannes Film Festival 2022 at Majestic Barrière on May 19, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering)

“He said, ‘Louise!’ I knew him for 10 years and he called me Louise and I find out that it’s because his maid’s name is Louise. I was maybe around 30 at the time, so it was a while ago. But what you have to realize is that those micro-aggressions happen all the time.”

This is not the first time Davis has opened up about her experience with racism and microaggressions in Hollywood, something she has been even more candid about with the rollout of her memoir.

She shared the lasting impact (or lack thereof) of her history-making role on Shonda Rhimes’ hit series, How To Get Away With Murder.

“I know that when I left How to Get Away With Murder that I don’t see a lot of dark skin women in lead roles on TV and not even in streaming services,” she said. “And that ties into ideology and ethos and mentality, and that’s speaking in the abstract. Why aren’t you hiring a dark skin woman when she walks in the room and you say she blows you away? Create space and storytelling for her so when she thrives she’s not thriving despite of her circumstance but thriving because of her circumstance.”

"Top Gun: Maverick" Red Carpet - The 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Julius Tennon and Viola Davis attend the screening of “Top Gun: Maverick” on May 18, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Davis also sat down with Oprah Winfrey for Netflix, as theGrio previously reported. Opening up about the self-love she has found in the writing process, she shared in the interview, “it’s my way of owning my story. It’s my way of not sort of sweeping it under the rug.”

You can watch the entire conversation with Viola Davis and Variety at Kering’s Women In Motion talk here.

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