Taking on the role of the first black woman to serve as America’s first lady was always going to be a hot topic – and social media has been unforgiving to Viola Davis for her portrayal of Michelle Obama in Showtime’s new series, The First Lady.
Even with Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards under her belt, the 56-year-old actress admits stepping into the shoes of the former first lady was a tough role to tackle.
“Here’s the thing about Michelle Obama, which is very different from me, different from a lot of people: she’s healthy. She’s a healthy human being because she grew up in an environment where she always felt seen, always felt worthy. Maybe because I’ve been with a lot of artists in my life, a lot of people who’ve been traumatised, including myself, it’s very interesting to portray someone who literally is healthy,” Viola says.
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Dear Viola Davis, I won't be watching #TheFirstLady, out of great respect to you, Michelle Obama, and #HTGAWM.— Dr Joke Anderson (@DrJokeAnderson) April 17, 2022
Your exaggerated lip pursing may parodize the show.
I strongly recommend subsequent episodes are urgently revised & you rely on your natural intuitive tendencies. pic.twitter.com/0G3MkwaRVG
Viola has been slammed online for her over-the-top performance in the show, which aired in the US earlier this week. “I am a huge Viola Davis fan. She’s a phenomenal actress. However, it deeply saddened me the way she portrayed Michelle Obama. The extreme lip pouting was over exaggerated in every scene,” someone wrote on social media.
Cassandra Freeman @cassandrafree of #belair would've been a great Michelle Obama! Love Viola but she overshot the "pursed lip thing". Sometimes the biggest names aren't the best picks to play iconic roles #thefirstlady pic.twitter.com/DFUkbrvTyn— JANINE (@NEEBABI) April 18, 2022
But for the award-winning actress there’s only one opinion that counts.
“There’s a lot of fear that I messed up my portrayal of Michelle Obama. Everyone knows what she looks like and what she sounds like, so I’m absolutely terrified. But I’m mostly terrified about what she’ll think,” she says.
This isn’t the first time she’s come under fire over a controversial portrayal of a role. Viola was also heavily criticised for her role as Amanda Waller in DC’s Suicide Squad – an action-packed superhero film that failed to live up to its hype or match its rival, Marvel’s Avengers.
Despite the disapproval, she doesn’t regret taking part in the film. However, she is sorry she took part in The Help, despite the 2011 film earning her an Oscar nomination.
In a previous interview, the actress said she felt the movie did not fairly represent the maids she and her co-stars portrayed. “Have I ever done roles that I’ve regretted? I have, and The Help is on that list,” she told The New York Times.
“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.”
Fans can look forward to seeing Viola in the upcoming film The Woman King. The historical drama, which is expected to hit screens in November, also features South African actress Thuso Mbedu.
Sources : The Guardian, Business Insider, Deadline, Vanity Fair, The New York Times