Viola Davis is definitely not letting any Hollywood moss grow under her stylish feet. Many of her fans first discovered her in “Doubt” with Meryl Streep then supported her in “The Help.” Since then, she appears to be everywhere. Loving wife to actor Julius Tennon and mom to toddler Genesis, the Juilliard trained star is a force of nature.
When you make your Valentine’s Day plans, include Davis’ new film “Beautiful Creatures.” The film is a love story based on a series of bestselling, young adult, fantasy novels. Viola plays Amma, a character who appears as an elderly maid in the book. Amma is a seer who communicates with her powerful ancestors called “The Greats.”
We visited Ms. Davis on set in New Orleans to talk about the project. The Tony award-winning Oscar-nominated actress is thrilled about “Beautiful Creatures” and her life right now. Viola has come into her own, insisting that although her character was originally written as a maid, she wasn’t going down that road with Amma.
Check it out!
HelloBeautiful: How did you prepare for the role of channeler Amarie “Amma” Treadeau?
Viola Davis: I’d like to tell an interesting story but I didn’t have any channelers I could call. There was no 1-800-channeler so I had to do a lot of work on the internet. You know, it’s not a really big role so I had to make it as authentic as possible without being too cartoony with it.
HB: Were you familiar with the “Beautiful Creatures” series of teen books?
Viola Davis: I was not familiar at all. I’m surprised. I have so many nieces and nephews who are that age. I just thought the script was fabulous. It’s a good read. It really is very entertaining. And what I like about it is that it deals so much with the past. Usually movies like this are so futuristic and project into the future but this one really dealt with the past and how it informed these characters in the present. I’m a sucker for a great love story even if they’re teenagers I just love it.
There are fabulous things about “Beautiful Creatures.” There’s a depth to the storyline dealing with the Civil War. Like my character and Jeremy Irons character and how our families intertwine.
HB: Tell us about the mystical, magic woman Amma. Originally she was a maid, right?
Viola Davis: In the book Amma is an older woman who is a housekeeper and then there’s Marian who is the librarian who has a PHD. They’ve combined those two characters and come up with moi. I said, “I don’t want to be seen with an apron. I don’t want to clean anything. I don’t to cook anything.”
After coming off “The Help” — actually even if I didn’t come off “The Help” — I didn’t want (with the pieces of the puzzle this movie put together) for my role to be one of servitude. I wanted to be in it. So Amma is a friend of Ethan’s mother and I said I want to look like the friend after the mother is gone. I said I’ll come in with some food but if we’re eating we have to eat together! I don’t wanna be cooking it in a pot.
HB: Did you realize that de-wigging and revealing your natural Afro at The Oscars would be such a big moment?
Viola Davis: Any sister who takes her wig off knows she’s making a statement [whether] wanting to make a statement or not. (smiles) You know what? I wish I had a better story to make me sound more heroic but… I’ve been with my husband, married 9 years. And he’s been saying to me, “I’m tired of the wigs. I’m tired of the rags on the head at night.” So I finally took the wig off and did it for him. Then I happened to go to a magazine shoot and they said “I love the hair!” And I said, “okay, no problem.” Once people saw the LA Times Magazine [shoot] they thought I looked cute in it. And whenever someone tells you you look cute you’re like, okay — I’ll go further with it!
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I did feel like it was liberating for me and it was the perfect time to do it with “The Help.” Through “The Help” I felt like I found my voice because I felt so much that I had to defend my choice that through it I had to either sink, fold and cave into myself or step into my voice as an artist and a black woman. Then the Oscars came and I just thought it was fitting to take the wig off and I never questioned it!
I have to tell you; some white people said you look good but all black people just felt it was such a powerful statement. They were thankful and grateful for it and it made me feel good – like I was more than just an actress.
HB: How do you pick your roles?
Viola Davis: You don’t pick. You know it’s like a loaded question. Not a loaded question but a complicated question. You don’t pick. At least I don’t pick. Some actresses probably have set of 10 scripts and go eeny meany miny mo. I don’t get those kind of choices – being 46, being African American, being of a certain look. My thing right now is, can I work with the script and humanize the person?
I have to recognize who that person is the page. It’s the most liberating thing I can do for myself as an actress and and actress of color. Isabel Sanford and Bea Richards came and went (on screen in film roles) I don’t want to do that anymore.
“Beautiful Creators” trailer:
HB: Well in case any screenwriters are reading this, what would be your dream roles?
Viola Davis: I want to be fun, I want to be sexy, I want to be light, I want to be complicated. That’s why I started my production company. I feel like I’m in control. It goes along with everything else: the hair, the production company, the baby. This is the time to break out of the background!
I love working on mythology. It gives you a sense of play that you don’t get when you’re playing someone that’s completely realistic. It gives you a sense of being larger than life. I love it. That’s why I would love to do sci fi. I am an outed trekkie.
“Beautiful Creatures” also co-stars Tiffany Boone, read our interview with the rising star here.Columnist Abiola Abrams appears on the CW’s “Bill Cunningham Show” as a resident life coach and relationship expert. Her debut novel “Dare” was just re-released by Simon and Schuster and you can find her award-winning Passionate Living Blog and web series at http://AbiolaTV.com.