Viola Davis Speaks On Acting Roles for Black Women Over 50; ‘I Play A Lot of Moms’

Viola Davis is opening up about the “vast desert” of acting roles Black women over 50 have to choose from.

While she’s achieved EGOT status at 57, it’s been no easy feat for Davis, who has seen success in older age despite her start in the ’90s, via IMDB. While at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, the Air star explained her initial reluctance to take on the role of Deloris Johnson, the mother of basketball great Michael Jordan, who helped negotiate his life-changing Nike deal.

“As soon as they called me, I said, ‘You want me to play his mom?’ ” Davis told People.

“I play a lot of moms. Everyone wants me to play their mom. I have people who hug me in the street who call me Mom.”

But the film’s director and co-star Ben Affleck didn’t have to do too much convincing once he explained to Davis the crucial role Jordan’s mom played in the Nike endorsement that, as of 2020, has earned the NBA champion $1.3 billion , according to Sporting News.

“I think the enticement came that it wasn’t your normal mom role,” Davis explained. “He turned it on its head so that she was the one who negotiated the [multimillion-dollar Nike] deal that we know today. And that intrigued me. I like surprises.”

The negotiating scene was one Davis ad-libbed and felt comfortable shooting since it came down to a Black woman having to negotiate her worth.

” It was sort of like art imitating life, life sort of influencing art,” she said before explaining the trials Black actresses over 50 face in Hollywood.

“When it comes to Black women who are over 50, then that is when [the lack of interesting roles] is problematic,” Davis said. “That’s when it is a vast desert.”

Remaining optimistic, the Academy Award-winning actress credited film and television stars like Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kerry Washington, Issa Rae, Michaela Coel, Halle Berry, Keke Palmer, and Marsai Martin who are “no longer begging for a seat at the table; they’re creating their own.”

“They’re empowering themselves by understanding that they’re the change that they want to see,” Davis added.

When it comes to being a Black woman in Hollywood, the Help star admits it’s a constant fight of “hustling for your worth.” But after continuous letdowns, Davis says there’s a “God divine moment” waiting on the other side where you look in the mirror and realize you are and always were worthy.

“I don’t hustle anymore. And it has nothing to do with my age and how long I’ve been in the business. It’s a realization,” Davis explained.

“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?” she adds with a knowing glance, “Maybe you have to see it the way I see it.”

RELATED CONTENTFLC Announces Presenters for 48th Chaplin Award Gala Honoring Viola Davis