Viola Davis is speaking out about the harsh criticism she has been receiving online over her portrayal of Forever First Lady Michelle Obama in the new SHOWTIME series, "The First Lady." She admitted the backlash is hurtful, but noted critics (seemingly online critics) don’t serve a purpose. More of what she had to say about it all inside…
SHOWTIME’s “The First Lady” has been met with criticism involving Oscar winner Viola Davis’ portrayal of Forever First Lady Michelle Obama. And there are a lot of folks who AREN’T feeling it.
Although she has been named one of the 25 greatest actors of the century by The NY Times, the veteran actress said portraying Forever First Lady Michelle Obama in the new political drama series was STRESSFUL.
Now it seems the reactions to her performance are just as stressful.
During an interview with the BBC, the FENCES star admitted that it’s “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work.” Being an actor, she knows backlash and criticism is an “occupational hazard” of acting. Sometimes people love your work and other times, they simply hate it.
"How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?" the 56-year-old asked. "But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance."
Social media users called Viola’s portrayal of Mrs. Obama “exaggerated,” “unnecessary” and “borderline insulting” due to the way she pursed her lips and facial expressions.
Check out some of the tweets below:
I love Viola Davis but they gotta shut this whole thing down! This is supposed to be Michelle Obama? pic.twitter.com/ZGYitBPUu8
— Fuckie Chinster (@DailyBruise2) April 20, 2022
Viola Davis playing Michelle Obama in #TheFirstLady is no different than this pic.twitter.com/38ov3LFj91
— kevikev (@KevCoke6) April 25, 2022
I know the muscles in Viola Davis’ face was tired after all this pic.twitter.com/j7PM4bFvis
— De’Andre (@DreTha_Truth) April 18, 2022
Viola Davis saw Michelle Obama do the lips thing once , and ran with it pic.twitter.com/qN6F20GH3I
— achumile mtwebana (@achumilem1) April 21, 2022
Viola davis playing Michelle Obama: pic.twitter.com/F16q78k3nQ
— DAHI (@Dahi______) April 18, 2022
While it may be hurtful to read and hear online critics pick apart her performance, she said there’s no need for them to be “nasty” about it. She then responds to “critics” which seems more like she’s clapping back at trolls online rather than professional film critics.
"Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either,” she said. "They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth’. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you."
“But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that,” she continued.
Viola – who is also an executive producer of the series – said portraying Lady O was "almost impossible," noting, "Either you’re doing too much or not enough," she noted.
As of now, she doesn’t know how Mrs. Obama feels about her performance. "I don’t have any personal contact with Michelle Obama," she said.
Last year, the “How To Get Away With Murder” star shared how terrified she was after accepting the role because she wants to portray Lady O perfectly – to her satisfaction.
“And it’s terrifying because … sometimes someone doesn’t live up to whatever image you have in your head. But when they do live up to the image, it’s quite frightening," she said at the time.
The 10-episode series will also star Dakota Fanning as Susan Elizabeth Ford, O-T Fagbenle as former President Barack Obama, Regina Taylor as Mrs. Obama’s mother Marian Shields Robinson, and Judy Greer as Nancy Howe.
Episode 3 of ”The First Lady” premieres Sunday, May 1st on SHOWTIME.