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Viola Davis says she "feels like I betrayed myself, and my people" with 'The Help'

ABC/Brian Bowen Smith

Viola Davis is opening up once again about the issues she has with one of her past films, 2011’s The Help.

The Oscar-winning actress played Aibileen Clark, a Black maid living in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s.

The critically-acclaimed feature, which also starred Octavia SpencerEmma StoneBryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain, was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Davis’ best actress nomination for her performance. Despite its success, Davis has been vocal about the construction of the story, and spoke to Vanity Fair about where she feels the film went wrong.

“Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity. They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but…it’s catering to the white audience,” she said. “The white audience at the most can sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theater and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.”

Davis says she holds herself responsible for accepting the role, and the message she fee;s the film conveys.

“There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help. But 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. The actress added that the drama was “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”

Despite her issues with the film’s plot and messaging, Davis said she built strong bonds with her cast mates during filming.

“I cannot tell you the love I have for these women, and the love they have for me … But with any movie — are people ready for the truth?” she said.

By Haley FitzPatrick
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