Viola Davis continues an actually illuminating press tour for her upcoming crime drama Widows with a New York Times interview, published Tuesday, in which she submits that the 2011 Tate Taylor film in which she starred and for which she was Academy Award-nominated, The Help, wasn’t the greatest.
In this particular interview format, Davis was answering questions from the paper’s readers, one of whom asked “Have you ever passed on a role and regretted it?” Davis was beyond generous in her response saying at first, “There have been one or two that I regretted for maybe a minute, and then I let it go.” Then, she continues:
“Almost a better question is, have I ever done roles that I’ve regretted? I have, and The Help is on that list. But not in terms of the experience and the people involved because they were all great. The friendships that I formed are ones that I’m going to have for the rest of my life. I had a great experience with these other actresses, who are extraordinary human beings. And I could not ask for a better collaborator than Tate Taylor.
I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”
The film was substantially criticized upon its release for, among other things, an insultingly mawkish depiction of American racism. Roxane Gay wrote of the film in 2012, “The Help is emotionally manipulative, taking every opportunity to cut the viewer’s heart wide open with painfully depicted scenes of racial segregation and the petty humiliations African-Americans faced during that era.”
Davis herself has previously criticized the film, although she didn’t go quite as far as saying she regretting being a part of it. At a BAFTA event last year, Davis said of the movie, “I absolutely love the premise. I love the fact that [Emma Stone’s character] said ‘I am going to write a story from the maids’ perspective of what it feels like to work with these white women.’ Operative term meaning the maids’ perspective. I don’t feel like it was from our perspective, that’s the problem I had with it. I had it from the very beginning.”