Viola Davis, Davis, Glenn discussed on Pop Culture Happy Hour
Joining us is e alex cheung features writer for new york mag and vulture. Welcome alex i. It's great to have you here to talk about viola. I'm so excited to hear your picks but first a little bit of background viola. When she won her first oscar for best supporting actress for fences and twenty seventeen. She became the first black person to win the so so-called triple crown of acting a competitive advantage emmy and tony award because of this in how omnipresent she's been over the last decade including her turn in the blockbuster period piece the help and as the shady complicated lawyer least keating in the long running series how to get away with murder. It might be easy to forget that. She has more than paid her dues to get where she's at. Now she graduated from juilliard in nineteen ninety-three and bounce between theater and screen throughout the rest of that decade by the early offs. She'd become a reliable supporting actor. Popping up in steven soderbergh movies like solaris and playing rations on the mom rule or the urban professional. She spoken candidly about how being dark skinned. Black woman has impacted her career like in this interview. She did with tina brown in twenty eighteen. I have a career that's probably comparable to meryl streep julianne moore. Let's sigourney weaver. They all came out of jail. They came out of juilliard. They came on nyu. They had the same path as me and yet i am nowhere near them. Not as far as money not as far as job opportunities. Nowhere close to it. But even when she's taken on roles one might consider to be less than worthy of her talents. She's always done the work. And that's what we're going to discuss in this episode as we examined three key performances from her career. These aren't all necessarily her biggest or most well known characters but they're essential to understanding what makes her such a force onscreen so before we dig into these three specific performances. I love to get your takes. Just initial thoughts on by as a whole glenn. Why don't we start with you. Well the word. I keep coming back to is intelligence. And it's a very specific species of intelligence. It's grounded Slightly world-weary intelligence that comes out of self awareness and self knowledge now. Look she's a great actor. I'm sure she could play someone really silly or flighty or self deluded. But that's not what you go. Viola davis for Whoever she's playing sees the world around her as it is iranian a perfect example of that. And that'll add layers to any performance but on a show like how to get away with murder which makes her do and say some very over the top ridiculous things. None of that show works. If you don't have viola davis planted there with both feet grounding that show and that's how a line like why is he a penis on it. Did girls phone is a great line woodland no matter who said it when she says it. It's iconic that is a classic line. I'm so glad you got that. And i completely agree glenn alex out you especially that line as another line that we'll talk about in widows. There are certain lines that it feels like only she can say and she can pull it off because she has obviously a lot of words at are thrown around the gravitas or the pool to make you pay attention to give something and under girding of seriousness to however ridiculous or operatic robot the actual proceedings may be. What's been interesting to see for me. Has been the ways in which her role choices as of late have been in some ways coinciding with a public persona as well around trying to take power and trying to make space for herself in hollywood that has historically dismissed her and i think that that has been kind of like interesting tension both in terms of what she's taking And then how those roles play out against the backdrop of the industry. Yeah i think that's a great point and it's a great segue into the first choice that we have here which is mine and it is far from heaven now. You might have forgotten that she was in this movie She has a very small role If you haven't been in a while or you don't remember that well. It is the todd haynes film from two thousand and two it is Basically in a mogae very very explicit. Oh my gosh to the douglas. Sirk melodramas of the nineteen fifties specifically imitation of life. and all that heaven allows and stars. Julianne moore and dennis quaid as a nineteen fifty suburban couple with a lot of secrets between them and viola. Davis plays sybil their housekeeper. Now this is a very very small role. It's a role that i think. If you're not really paying attention to its it can easily pass she by. You can cast it off as a very insignificant moment in viola davis career. But i think having watched it and watching it very closely. There's a lot that she does. That is so subtle and small and takes this. What could have been stereotypical role of the made in the two thousands of all places and really adds gravitas. As you mentioned. alex. I think is part of what is so interesting about it. We also know that simple is always privy to. What's going on because she's always there. She's taking care of their children. Most of this is done not by dialogue. But by the way in which davis you know cast a glance exchanges glances with other black characters in the film and i think it really works well in this a to the douglas sirk phones because so much of it is subtext. And then at some point it becomes taxed by the end of this film. A pivotal moment. Where davis davis's character tells julianne moore something that she knew and i think it's just a really smart performance and there's a moment towards the end. Where after the julia more character and The dentist character have to force or are getting a divorce where they have this exchange between each other and let's take a little listen to this clip civil. You'll need to do that. I know it's friday but there's so much to be done now. I can hardly expect to be polishing tables reason not to keep things no reason at all. Don't forget the grocery lists thank you on her side. So if you hear that part julianne moore says. I don't know how on earth ever managed and she likes stops herself halfway because she catches a glance of viola davis. And it's like well. I know how you manage. Because i've been here the whole time lady like i'm doing all the work and so i really love just the way in which even with a small role she gives all of this emotion and thoughts and make sure the main character is smarter than the white characters around her think she is and it's kind of a nice also precursor role in the help a few years later which you couldn't pay me to re watch that movie. There are a lot of like undertones from that And there's like a line between that and the help in which i actually think that her character is treated with a little bit more dignity here than she is in the help Glenn and alex. I don't know how recently you've rewatch the film. But how do you feel about her role in this movie. Will you pick that because yes it's a small part but it underscores it kinda breaks. Open that film a weird way because of course it is as you say no majd. Douglas sirk melodrama and is a very stylized kind of acting that he kind of has people go into and uses. The measles saw uses the lighting of the costumes of that. The very specific genre and has viola davis undercut that by acting more naturalistic than melodrama typically.