Find out Why Viola Davis Feels She ‘Betrayed Herself’ by Acting in ‘The Help’

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For the July/August Vanity Fair cover story, Viola Davis opened up about her role as Aibileen Clark in The Help

Nine years ago, 54-year-old Viola Davis appeared in The Help as Aibileen Clarka 1960’s housemaid in Mississippi. In an interview for the July/August cover story for Vanity Fair, Davis opens up about why she feels she “betrayed herself” by taking on the role.

“I was that journeyman actor, trying to get in,” Davis told Vanity Fair. She went on to explain that many of the film’s narratives only carter towards white crowds.


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Thrilled to share this cover and interview with @VanityFair. Available now! ・・・ Presenting our July/August cover star: @ViolaDavis. Last month, the Oscar winner took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd—but she’s no stranger to fighting for what’s right. As a Black woman in Hollywood, she’s spent her career doing it: “My entire life has been a protest,” Davis says. “My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice, just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis.’” Davis was photographed by—the first Black photographer to shoot a Vanity Fair cover. At the link in bio, Davis speaks with V.F. about her extraordinary journey out of poverty and into the stubbornly unequal Hollywood system. Story by @soniasaraiya Photographed by Styled by @elizabethstewart1 Makeup by @autumnmoultriebeauty Hair by @jamikawilson Coatdress @maxmara Earrings @pomellato 🔁@vanityfair

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“Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity,” she said. “They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but…it’s catering to the white audience. The white audience at the most can sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theater and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.”

Davis told the magazine that The Help was “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.” Due to the movie’s success, the actress does point out that “there’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help.” “But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to (tell the truth).”

During the fight for racial justice over the past weeks, The Help, along with many other films regarding racism, has resurfaced and begun trending on Netflix. Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Hilly in the film, spoke out. “The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers.”

She then pushed fans to watch more “powerful, essential, masterful films” in which “center Black lives, stories, creators, and / or performers.” Howard even shared a list of films which include 13th, Just Mercy, When They See Us, and Selma.

For Davis’ full Vanity Fair interview, click here.