Viola Davis Says Hollywood Is 'Vast Desert' For Black Women Over 50
While attending the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, Viola Davis expressed her frustration with the available roles for Black women in Hollywood.
“When it comes to Black women who are over 50, then that is when [the lack of interesting roles] is problematic. That’s when it is a vast desert,” the EGOT winner, who most recently portrayed Michael Jordan’s mother Deloris Johnson in “Air,” told People. “Women are no longer begging for a seat at the table, they’re creating their own.”
“Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kerry Washington, Issa Rae … Halle Berry, Keke Palmer, we can keep going on and on — even Marsai Martin, who is what, 18?” she added. “They’re empowering themselves by understanding that they’re the change that they want to see.”
Davis has certainly helped pave the way for younger generations of Black women in Hollywood — and has become the most-Oscar-nominated Black woman of all time. And yet, Davis has witnessed a dearth of interesting roles for Black women over 50 firsthand.
“I play a lot of moms,” she told People. “Everyone wants me to play their mom. I have people who hug me in the street who call me Mom.”
Davis, the most Oscar-nominated Black woman in history, said she doesn't "hustle" anymore.
Davis jumped at the chance to play Jordan’s mother, however, and said Ben Affleck — who wrote and starred in “Air” alongside pal Matt Damon — wisely crafted the Deloris Jordan character as being an undeniable key to her son’s success.
“I think the enticement came that it wasn’t your normal mom role,” Davis told People. “He turned it on its head so that she was the one who negotiated the [multi-million dollar Nike] deal that we know today. And that intrigued me. I like surprises.”
Michael Jordan signed a five-year deal worth $2.5 million in 1984 and became a billionaire in 2014.
Davis added that Black women constantly feel like they’re “hustling” to validate their worth. Davis, who won her first Tony Award in 2001, an Emmy in 2015, a Grammy in 2023 and received an Oscar in 2017, doesn’t feel that way anymore, however.
“I don’t hustle anymore,” she told People. “And it has nothing to do with my age and how long I’ve been in the business. It’s a realization. It’s a self-actualization that worth is nothing to be negotiated with. I was born worthy. That’s not on the table. What’s on the table?”
“Maybe you have to see it the way I see it.”