Viola Davis Reacts to Criticism of ‘First Lady,’ Michelle Obama Role

Michelle Obama and Viola Davis
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It’s all there. Viola Davis doesn’t have time for critics — especially when it comes to her portrayal of Michelle Obama on Showtime’s The First Lady.

The 56-year-old actress told BBC News in an interview published on Monday, April 25, that it is “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work.”

While the How to Get Away From Murder alum acknowledged that harsh reactions to her performances are an “occupational hazard” of being an actress, she noted that critics aren’t necessarily essential to the craft.

Viola Davis First Lady Criticism Michelle Obama Role Is Hurtful

Viola Davis as Michelle Obama in ‘The First Lady.’
Jackson Lee Davis/SHOWTIME

“They feel like they’re telling you what you don’t know, like, ‘Oh, you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and I’m going to be the person who leans in and tells you the truth,’” Davis explained. “It gives them an opportunity to be cruel.”

She added: “The thing about critics is they serve absolutely no purpose.”

After the premiere of The First LadyThe South Carolina native was criticised via social media earlier this month for channeling Obama, 58. Some viewers were quick to point out her dramatic facial expressions, and physical mannerisms.

“I imagine Viola Davis watched a lot of video footage of Michelle Obama speaking,” one person tweeted. “Where she got the idea to do the weird, exaggerated pursed-lip thing is beyond me. It’s distracting and unnecessary.”

Another Twitter user wrote: “They set Viola Davis up by allowing her [to]Keep her mouth closed throughout filming. It’s so cringey and distracting.”

Davis’ portrayal of the former first lady was unlike any other in the cast, as the BecomingAuthor is the only living character depicted in the series. Michelle PfeifferBetty Ford, who passed away in 2011, was played by Gillian AndersonEleanor Roosevelt, who was killed in 1962, is depicted.

O-T FagbenleFor his part, he took on the task to embody former President Barack ObamaMichelle was married to Michael in 1992. The real-life couple have two daughters: the 23-year old MaliaA 20-year old Sasha.

Davis, despite negative feedback from viewers and critics, revealed that she has thickened her skin after decades of working in the industry.

“How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?” she wonderred during her BBC News interview. “But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.”

The Help star confessed, “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.”

The Oscar winner further explained that it was “almost impossible” to play someone as recognizable as Michelle, noting, “Either you’re doing too much or not enough.”

Davis expressed concern about the difficulty of accurately portraying Michelle, who lived at the White House from 2009-2017 while Barack, 60 served as the 44th President of the United States.

“You’re terrified whenever you start a job, because you are afraid you are going to be found out — that’s big imposter syndrome,” she told Entertainment TonightApril. “But with Michelle Obama, it’s like everyone has ownership over Michelle Obama. … Everyone knows what she looks like, what she sounds like, what her hair [is like].”

The First LadyShowtime Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET.

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