“It is not my job to be sexy, it’s my job to be sexual” – Viola Davis on playing sexualized Annalise Keating

by Staff writer

Speaking to digital magazine Porter Edit, for which she covered, one of Hollywood’s most-celebrated black actresses chipped in about the game-changing opportunity that came with playing Annalise Keating, the character that elevated her from supporting film roles into a leading—and sexually liberated—lady of television drama:

Ms Davis said:

“I’m 52 and darker than a paper bag. Women who look like me are relegated to the back of the bus, auditioning for crackheads and mammas and the person with a hand on her hip who is always described as ‘sassy’ or ‘soulful’.

“I’ve had a 30-year career and I have rarely gotten roles that are fleshed out, even a little bit. I mean, you wouldn’t think [these characters] have a vagina.

“Annalise Keating has changed the game. I don’t even care if she doesn’t make sense. I love that she’s unrestricted, that every week I actually have to fight [showrunner] Peter Nowalk not to have another love scene. When does that ever happen?”

The ‘liberation’ that came from Davis’s role as feisty defense attorney and law professor on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder has also been a revelation for the Rhode Island-raised actress, who had to tap into a previously unexplored aspect of her tremendous talent to be free enough to play a woman in touch with her own sexuality and desire.

Part of that process was realizing that sexiness doesn’t only come in one package:

“… because very rarely in my career,” Davis says, “– and in my life – have I been allowed to explore that part of myself, to be given permission to know that is an aspect of my humanity, that I desire and am desired.

“I always felt in playing sexuality you have to look a certain way, to be a certain size, to walk a certain way.

“Until I realized that what makes people lean in is when they see themselves. There’s no way I am going to believe that all women who are sexualized are size zero or two, all have straight hair, all look like sex kittens every time they go to bed and want sex from their man, all are heterosexual.

“I am mirroring women. I always say it is not my job to be sexy, it’s my job to be sexual. That’s the difference.”

Davis goes on to discuss the wage gap in Hollywood, referencing the recent move by actress Jessica Chastain to ensure that she and her Oscar-winning co-star Octavia Spencer would make equal pay on their next film together.

Davis says: “Caucasian women have to stand in solidarity with us. And they have to understand we are not in the same boat.”

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