Viola Davis on starring in The Help: 'I betrayed myself, and my people'

  • Viola Davis looks breathtaking on the cover of Vanity Fair's July/August edition.
  • The Academy Award-winning actor opens up about taking on her role as a housemaid in The Help, saying she feels as though she "betrayed" herself.
  • "I was in a movie that wasn't ready to [tell the whole truth]," she tells Vanity Fair.


"My entire life has been a protest," Viola Davis says as she appears on the cover of Vanity Fair.

The Academy Award-winning actor gets candid in the magazine's July/August edition about The Help, in which she played a housemaid in the 1960s.

Of her performance, she tells the publication: "There's no one who's not entertained by The Help. But there's a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn't ready to [tell the whole truth]."

She says The Help was "created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism".

Davis says she was impoverished growing up and felt she did not have a voice. "I did not exert my voice because I did not feel worthy of having a voice," she said.

Adding that her sisters and mother made her believe in herself, she continued: "[They] looked at me and said I was pretty. "Who's telling a dark-skinned girl that she's pretty? Nobody says it. I'm telling you, nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman's voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling—that I do not have the right to speak up about how I'm being treated, that somehow I deserve it."

The star was nominated for an Academy Award for her role but lost to Meryl Streep.

This isn't the first time she's spoken about The Help since the film's release in 2011.

In 2018 she echoed these same sentiments in an interview with The New York Times saying: "I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn't the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They're my grandma. They're my mom. 

"And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie."