Viola is featured on the newest issue of Variety magazine. She talks about her new film Widows that is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, the Hollywood Pay Gap, and other issues that she has faced in Hollywood.
It was a familiar dilemma for Viola Davis. What to do with her hair?
The star of the upcoming film “Widows” needed to know what kind of wig or extensions she should wear to play Veronica Rawlins, the leader of an unlikely band of robbers scrambling to pull off a dangerous heist. Director Steve McQueen’s answer shocked the Emmy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning actress.
“I said, ‘Your own hair is beautiful — just wear it that way,’” recalls McQueen. “Veronica is a wash-and-go kind of girl.”
For Davis, the decision to appear on-screen in close-cropped, curly hair was liberating and represented an important social statement.
“You’re always taught as a person of color to not like your hair,” she says. “The kinkier it is, the so-called nappier it is, the uglier it is.”
McQueen stressed that he was interested in reflecting reality. More women looked like her, he told the actress, than like the artificial and idealized images of female beauty that Hollywood frequently projects.
“We’re into a zeitgeist where people are fighting for their space to be seen,” says Davis. “People have to know that there are different types of women of color. We’re not all Foxy Brown. We’re not all brown or light-skinned beauties with a big Afro. We have the girl next door. We have the older, dark-skinned, natural-haired woman.”
“Widows,” which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival and debuts in theaters on Nov. 16, represents other important firsts for Davis. It’s a commercial action pic from a major studio (20th Century Fox) that rises or falls on her performance, as well as a chance for the 53-year old actress to solidify her position on the A-list. Julius Tennon, Davis’ husband of 15 years and the co-founder of their production company JuVee, says the impact could be seismic.
“This could change the face of her career up to this point,” he says. “It’s a chance for Viola to be seen as the lead actor in a global movie.”