Vi­ola Davis says ‘stop tam­ing us’ at Hol­ly­wood event

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - ENTERTAINMENT -

LOS AN­GE­LES >> Ac­tress and pro­ducer Vi­ola Davis gave a rous­ing speech about lead­er­ship and au­then­tic­ity to a well-heeled crowd of Hol­ly­wood power play­ers Wed­nes­day morn­ing at The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter’s Women in En­ter­tain­ment break­fast.

Davis, who was be­ing hon­ored with the Sherry Lans­ing Lead­er­ship Award, said that she doesn’t al­ways come to mind when she thinks of the idea of lead­er­ship — Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. does — but that she is try­ing through her pro­duc­tion com­pany to em­brace women of color as they re­ally are.

“There is no limit to how we see nar­ra­tives with peo­ple of color,” Davis said to a rapt crowd that in­cluded Mandy Moore, Lupita Ny­ong’o, Awk­wa­fina, Rita Wil­son, “Roma” break­out Yal­itza Apari­cio and Ke­sha. “There is only so much I am go­ing to cow tow to this busi­ness.”

She said she and her hus­band Julius Ten­non started JuVee Pro­duc­tions be­cause she was tired of cel­e­brat­ing movies that didn’t have “me in it.”

“I don’t mean me Vi­ola,” Davis said. “I mean me as a black woman.”

She urged those in power in Hol­ly­wood to show more authen­tic black fe­male char­ac­ters. “My main mes­sage is ‘stop tam­ing us,’ she said. “Ev­ery­thing that we are in­side is what makes art in this world rich ... There is some­thing to be said about be­ing wild. Steve McQueen is wild. Barry Jenk­ins. Ryan Coogler .... These peo­ple who just dare. Who say you can­not si­lence me.”

Even when there are black char­ac­ters, she said, they’re re­duced to be­ing ma­ter­nal, to be­ing the sav­ior, to be­ing de­nied sex­u­al­ity, to be­ing there to, “Make that white char­ac­ter feel bet­ter.”

“What is in my heart is I can­not lead with bull(as­ter­isk)(as­ter­isk)(as­ter­isk)(as­ter­isk),” she said. “I can­not lead with ly­ing. I can­not lead with the ly­ing about what the road is out there.”

Her com­pany re­cently closed a first look fea­ture pro­duc­tion deal with Ama­zon Stu­dios, where they will pro­duce a film about pi­o­neer­ing politi­cian Shirley Chisholm. Davis will star as the New York con­gress­woman.

Davis was in good com­pany at the break­fast event, where co­me­dian Han­nah Gadsby chided “good men talk­ing about bad men” and Mon­ica Lewin­sky talked about her “mis­take” and learn­ing how to sur­vive and grow from it.

“We have each made a mis­take in our ca­reer that has come with con­se­quences. And prob­a­bly every­one in this room can agree, that among all of us here to­day, when it comes to the worst mis­take or mis­take with the worst con­se­quences, I def­i­nitely win, hands down,” Lewin­sky said. “Get com­fort­able with the fact that at some point you will make a mis­take in your ca­reer...And know, from the deep­est part of you, that you can move on from it, you can grow from it, and you can sur­vive it.”

One per­son who owned up to a mis­take was Lena Dun­ham, who came on stage with the mother of a woman who ac­cused a “Girls” writer of sex­ual as­sault last Novem­ber. Dun­ham at the time came out in sup­port of the writer, who was her friend, and ques­tioned the ac­count of Aurora Per­rineau. Since then Dun­ham has be­come friends with Aurora and her mother Brit­tany Per­rineau.

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