×

Viola Davis on Why Hollywood Doesn’t Highlight People of Color

Viola Davis knows why executives and casting agents in the upper echelons of Hollywood still refrain from giving projects about people of color the same attention as those toplined by non-POC: “Fear.”

Davis and her husband Julius Tennon spoke about the importance of taking a firm stance about fostering inclusive content with those at the top during their keynote presentation at Variety’s Inclusion Summit.

The “Widows” actress echoed the sentiments of many participants throughout the day, which was that the “people in power” are the ones who need to make the change.

“They’re not being asked those hard-hitting questions,” Davis said.

Tennon advised people of color to “just ask” for what they want to see happen during meetings.

“The great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ My momma always told me if you don’t ask you don’t get, so guess what, if you’re in deals with companies you just have to ask. It’s about the project and about doing something big, it’s called development for a reason, things aren’t sussed out all the way,” Tennon said.

Davis explained how she doesn’t believe inclusion riders are an entirely adequate solution to the diversity problem in the industry.

“I do not want to be a part of any piece of paper that has to force people to see me,” Davis said.

Another problem she identified was the reliance on precedents in Hollywood’s history for diversity, and using their lack to “dictate our storytelling in the present.”

“If you look to the past and look at storytelling where there’s a huge deficit in terms of our voice and our presence, that’s not a good place to start,” she said. “What we have to fight for, and this is what I’m proud about with JuVee, is autonomy in storytelling and production and all of it. Don’t just tell me that the only way Viola can exist in the story is if a white person is leading the charge and I’m in the background.”

Davis revealed that her husband often has to play the role of peacemaker at their production company.

“He keeps me from going crazy, I’m the one who’s like, ‘kiss my ass,'” Davis said to great laughter in the room.

The duo also discussed the next project up on JuVee’s slate: “Emanuel,” a documentary about the Charleston church tragedy where nine black parishioners lost their lives.

Tennon said that the doc was a natural fit with the company given Davis’ close ties with South Carolina and the stories that JuVee is looking to shed light on.

“One of the most important things is that after it happened, I would mention it to people and I would say isn’t it horrible and no one knew anything about it,” Davis said. “I see that as how we see race, we sweep it under the rug, it’s our dirty little secret. Like Brené Brown says, it’s easier to cause the pain than to feel the pain…There is too much that’s been done to erase history, at the end of the day we are our history.”

More Biz

  • Hong Kong skyline

    Hong Kong Declares Emergency in Coronavirus Response

    Hong Kong’s government has put the territory on the highest state of emergency in response to the outbreak of coronavirus in mainland China. Schools will remain closed until Feb. 17, long after the Chinese New Year holidays, which begin today, should have finished. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Area of China and some 600 [...]

  • Harvey Mason Jr.., Chair of the

    Grammy Board Chief Calls Allegations of Nomination-Rigging ‘Just Not Right’

    Among the many allegations in ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan’s blockbuster legal complaint, the one that possibly cuts most to the heart of the institution — and is of most concern to artists and the public — is the allegation that the nominating process is “rigged.” The example in the complaint points to the [...]

  • Annabella Sciorra

    Friend Tells of Annabella Sciorra's Mid-1990s Struggles at Harvey Weinstein Trial

    A longtime friend of Annabella Sciorra testified Friday in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial that the actor turned to cutting herself and exhibited other troubling behavior in the mid-1990s after she was allegedly raped by the disgraced film mogul. The defense questioning of model Kara Young got heated as Judge James Burke sustained repeated objections to [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Judge Doubts WGA Claim That Packaging Fees Are Kickbacks

    A federal judge seemed skeptical on Friday of the Writers Guild of America’s claim that packaging fees amount to a criminal kickback to agents. Judge Andre Birotte heard more than two hours of arguments from attorneys for the guild and three agencies: WME, UTA and CAA. He said he would issue a ruling at a [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: Why Aerosmith Is Still Gold for Synchs

    Aerosmith’s star-studded tribute concert as the 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year honorees on Friday night (January 24) will cement another important milestone in the historic Boston-founded band’s contributions to the American rock canon. But over the past decade, some of the band’s best-known music has remained part of the cultural conversation through some of [...]

  • Sirius Logo

    Radio Hall of Famer Kid Kelly Leaves SiriusXM After Two Decades

    In a surprise move, veteran programmer, on-air personality and Radio Hall of Famer Kid Kelly has left SiriusXM after nearly 20 years with the radio giant, a rep for the company has confirmed to Variety. The news was first reported by RAMP. He most recently served as SiriusXM’s VP of Pop Music Programming. “After a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content