Viola Davis opened up about the time a director once referred to her by his maid’s name during. During the Variety and Kering Women In Motion conversation at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday (May 19), the award-winning actress explained how the past incident played out and what it ultimately represents.
“I had a director who did that to me. He said, ‘Louise!’ I knew him for 10 years and he called me Louise and I find out that it’s because his maid’s name is Louise,” Davis said, according to Variety. “I was maybe around 30 at the time, so it was a while ago. But what you have to realize is that those micro-aggressions happen all the time.”
She went on to discuss the diversity problem in Hollywood and how her acclaimed series How To Get Away With Murder did not directly result in more opportunities for dark-skinned women in leading roles.
“I know that when I left ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ that I don’t see a lot of dark skin women in lead roles on TV and not even in streaming services,” Davis said. “And that ties into ideology and ethos and mentality, and that’s speaking in the abstract. Why aren’t you hiring a dark skin woman when she walks in the room and you say she blows you away? Create space and storytelling for her so when she thrives she’s not thriving despite of her circumstance but thriving because of her circumstance.”
She continued, “If I wanted to play a mother whose family lives in a low-income neighborhood and my son was a gang member who died in a drive by shooting, I could get that made,” adding, “If I played a woman who was looking to recreate herself by flying to Nice and sleeping with five men at the age of 56 — looking like me, I’m going to have a hard time pushing that one, even as Viola Davis.”
The important discussion continues to reveal how discrimination has impacted Davis’ career despite being one of the most acclaimed actresses of all time including a Primetime Emmy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, and her current standing as the most nominated black actress in history at the Oscars.
“We could talk about colorism, we could talk about race,” she said. “It pisses me off, and it has broken my heart — on a number of projects, which I won’t name.”
Watch the full conversation below.