Viola Davis Says She ‘Betrayed’ Herself Starring in ‘The Help’ — Here’s Why

Viola Davis is opening up about her award-winning performance in The Help. Reflecting on her role, the star of How to Get Away with Murder isn’t proud of it. Rather, Davis feels in taking on the role she “betrayed” herself. Keep reading to learn more about Davis’ role in the movie and why she regrets it. 

Viola Davis plays Aibileen Clark in ‘The Help’

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In 2011’s The Help, Davis plays Aibileen Clark, a Black woman in the 1960s working as a maid for a prominent white family. When Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) returns home after college to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, she decides to interview Clark and other Black maids about the racism they experienced working for white families. 

She wins multiple awards for her performance

Widely considered to be one of Davis’ breakout roles, her performance as Aibileen Clark in The Help earned her numerous awards in 2012. She won two Screen Actors Guild Awards; one for her individual performance and another with the rest of the movie’s cast, according to IMDb

She also won in the Best Actress category at the Critics’ Choice Awards. Plus, her performance earned her both a Golden Globe nod and an Oscar nod. Her co-star, Octavia Spencer, left the Academy Awards victorious, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Despite the nominations and wins, The Help received criticism. 

Viola Davis feels she ‘betrayed’ herself and her ‘people’ taking the role

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In a cover interview for Vanity Fair’s July/August 2020 issue, Davis reflected on her time playing Aibileen Clark in The Help

“Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity,” she said. “They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but … it’s catering to the white audience.”

She went on, saying, she didn’t remain true to herself or her “people,” taking the role.

“There’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to [tell the whole truth],” she said.

Davis added that The Help and other films have been “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”

She’s talked about ‘The Help’ before

Davis getting candid with Vanity Fair about The Help isn’t a first. Prior to this, the actor discussed the film in a 2018 interview with The New York Times. Answering readers’ questions, the star of How to Get Away with Murder didn’t hold anything back.

Viola Davis speaks at the launch of LOréal Paris Age Perfect Cosmetics
Viola Davis speaks at the launch of LOréal Paris Age Perfect Cosmetics | Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for L’Oréal Paris

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Asked whether or not she ever regretted passing on roles, she said she regretted starring in The Help. Noting that it had nothing to do with her experience with her costars, Davis explained why. 

“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” she said. “I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom.”

She continued: “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.”

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