Saturday September 18, 2021

Viola Davis says she had to ‘make her Blackness disappear’ as a student at Julliard

Viola Davis harked back to the time when she watched the theater’s onstage adaption of Ma Rainey
Web Desk
February 15, 2021
Viola Davis says she had to ‘make her Blackness disappear’ as a student at Julliard

Hollywood star Viola Davis opened up about being one of the very few young Black students at Julliard and how it affected her.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the Academy Award-winning star, 55, spoke up about her film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which earned her a Golden Globes nomination as well.

She harked back to the time when she watched the theater’s onstage adaption of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

"It was like I was watching a famous singer that I loved in private, even though I didn't even know who Ma Rainey was at all,” she said.

She revealed further that during her time at Julliard, she never performed any plays by August Wilson, who is known for his cycle of 10 shows encircling African American community of the 20th century.

Davis revealed that this was because the few Black students in her graduating class weren’t cast for shows enough.

"I can't say that I'm not appreciative of my training there, but I did not find a sense of belonging. It was a place that taught classical, Eurocentric theatre as if it was the Bible — and for me, as a chocolate, kinky-haired girl, there was no way in," she said.

"To perform in Shakespeare, or George Bernard Shaw, or Eugene O'Neill, I felt like what was required of me was to make any hint of my Blackness disappear, that it would somehow be a good thing if the audience could forget I was Black,” she went on to say.

"There is still a sense that a woman has to look a certain way and be a certain age in order to be sexual on screen. And if those rules are broken, they're broken for white actresses only. And they're wonderful white actresses — Meryl Streep in 'Hope Springs,' or Diane Keaton in 'Something's Gotta Give.' But I don't feel like that same freedom has been extended to black women, especially dark-skinned black women. I simply don't see it," she continued.