Friday, October 31, 2014

Viola Davis gets away with faking confidence

(Oct. 27, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I feel like I’m part of something progressive,” American actress Viola Davis giddily said of her hit legal drama series, “How to Get Away With Murder,” in a recent roundtable phone interview.

The film, TV and theater actress also graciously answered via e-mail the Inquirer’s unasked questions from that first round.

Davis, 49, has acted since the 1990s. A Tony awardee for her roles in “King Hedley II” and “Fences,” Davis was Oscar-nominated for her work in 2011’s “The Help.” Prior to her high-profile nomination, she appeared in films “Traffic,” “Syriana,” “Trust,” “Knight and Day,” and “Doubt.”

She also appeared in multiple episodes of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Century City” and “United States of Tara.”

In “How to Get Away With Murder,” she plays a criminal law professor, Annalise Keating, a defense attorney with secrets to hide.

How did you and the show runners agree on this project?
It kind of fell on my lap! There was no dramatic story to it—I got the phone call that they wanted me for the role, and of course I jumped at the chance.

I had a sit-down with executive producer Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and creator Peter Nowalk (“Scandal”). I had an honest conversation with them because I wanted to approach this woman as a real woman of color and of a certain age. I wanted her to be grounded in reality.

What’s the most rewarding thing about being a part of the show?
I feel like I’m a part of a world that hasn’t been seen on television. That’s the most rewarding part…Just doing what I do is different. People of different views, sexualities are represented. That’s what I love about it.

What makes the show’s gay angle intriguing?
That’s always what it’s like in “ShondaLand”—she really casts people who represent how America looks: different colors, different sexualities. You just want people to receive it, not reject it.

What’s the toughest part about playing Annalise?
People critique based on what they see…Everybody wants the answers, the characters to be likable. The hardest part is to play the character, ground her in reality and quiet the noise of the public. By the ninth episode, you’ll see why it’s such a challenge to play the character.

What’s the easiest?
Playing a character who is completely different from me—someone who is manipulative, probably unapologetically cold, asexualized and complicated. Playing all those things is great.

What can you tell aspiring actors about this career?
It feels great! There’s so much stigma attached to age, especially women in our culture. It’s great to be given a role that defies that stigma. There aren’t a lot of lead roles in Hollywood films for women who are like me. I always wanted to reach a certain status in my career so that I had the power to go after and create those roles on my own—it was the only way I was going to get them.

Who are your acting influences?
Julia Roberts said something that stuck with me. She was asked by acting students, “How do you deal with not feeling confident all the time?” [She responded,] “The best advice I would give you is to fake it.” I love that advice; I saw Julia a couple of months ago and should have thanked her. I just fake that I am extraordinarily confident.”
(“How to Get Away With Murder” airs Wednesdays, 9:05 p.m., on Sony Channel.)

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