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10th Annual Global Women's Rights Awards

Source: Earl Gibson III / Getty

When Viola Davis speaks, we feel chills. She carefully chooses her words for a powerful message that inspires whoever she’s around and whoever else is watching. During a star-studded The Hollywood Reporter roundtable for the cover of their June 19 issue, featuring Lizzy Chaplan, Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Taraji P. Henson, Jessica Lange and Ruth Wilson, Davis poetically broke down her role on the hit show How To Get Away With Murder.

“There was absolutely no precedent for it. I had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualized role in TV or film,” she explained. “I’m a sexual woman, but nothing in my career has ever identified me as a sexualized woman. I was the prototype of the “mommified” role. Then all of a sudden, this part came, and fear would be an understatement. When I saw myself for the first time in the pilot episode, I was mortified. I saw the fake eyelashes and, “Are you kidding me? Who is going to believe this?” And then I thought: “OK, this is your moment to not typecast yourself, to play a woman who is sexualized and do your investigative work to find out who this woman is and put a real woman on TV who’s smack-dab in the midst of this pop fiction.”

Further elaborating on breaking the cookie-cutter mold, she added,

“The thing I had to get used to with TV was the likability factor. People have to like you, people have to think you’re pretty. I was going to have to face a fact that people were going to look at me and say: ‘I have no idea why they cast her in a role like this. She just doesn’t fit. It should have been someone like Halle Berry. It’s her voice, and she doesn’t walk like a supermodel in those heels.’ And people do say that, they do. But what I say to that is the women in my life who are sexualized are anywhere from a size zero to a size 24. They don’t walk like supermodels in heels. They take their wig and makeup off at night. So this role was my way of saying, “Welcome to womanhood!” It’s also healed me and shown a lot of little dark-skinned girls with curly hair a physical manifestation of themselves.”

Taraji P. Henson, who became the breakout star of FOX’s hit show Empire revealed, she actually HATES Cookie Lyon.

“I hate that bitch,” she joked. “She’s stolen my identity! (Laughter.) My friends don’t want to talk to me unless it’s about Cookie.”

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