Art has got to be inclusive. The landscape of America is not what it was. The demographics have changed.

Hollywood isnt exactly known for its progressive approach to onscreen representation (see: #OscarsSoWhite rounds one and two), but 2016 delivered several films that break the normincluding Fences. The Denzel Washington-directed movie is based on a play by August Wilson, and chronicles the unraveling marriage of a black couple in 1950s Pittsburgh. spoke to Viola Davis (side note: she percent deserves an Oscar for this magnificent role) about Fences feminism, why the Academy should pull a BAFTAs and demand diversity, andoh yeahthe time she was recognized by fans while peeing.

Marie Claire: The BAFTAs just announced that starting in 2019, theyll only consider films that are diverse in representation both on and off screen. Do you think the Academy should do the same?

Viola Davis: Yeah, I think it would be absolutely wonderful because heres the thing, sometimes people need to be thrust into change. You do. Change is something we avoid because we just migrate to what were used tonot to whats right. Any change thats ever come has come at a point in history where its violent and its passionate. Its like a famous motivational speaker said: If youre afraid of diving into something, then just dive into it afraid. Thats what I believe should happen with the whole diversity issue. Art has got to be inclusive. The landscape of America is not what it was. The demographics have changed. Everyone is fighting, they are hungry to see their own images. It can sell, and it can be great. We have to know that. I dont think its stifling voices, either. I think its encouraging voices. So yes, I think it would be wonderful if the Academy was asked to do the same.

MC: What can Fences teach us about early feminism? History books have white-washed the feminist movement, but the real history of powerful women is very intersectional, and I loved how Rose made her voice heard while still sticking to her traditional role as wife.

VD: Absolutely, thats the beauty of what Wilson wrote. He wrote a liberated women in 1957. I dont think Rose is aware thats who she is, she plays the role that was given to her in 1957a year that had the highest rate of alcoholics, the highest rate of depression at that time. Our only role was in the house, and thats when we meet Rose. In the house. Thats where her purpose lies until its taken from her. Thats where a persons true nature comes outwhether theyre going to sink or swim. When its taken away from Rose, you see how she swims. Her moment of liberation comes when she realizes she contributed to the demise of her marriage, and the demise of herself. To me, thats true liberation. Strength, to me, is the internal struggle of stepping into ones self. Thats what Rose does.

MC: So many of the issues were dealing with as women now are the same as they were in the 50sdecades later.

VD: When I was a young women, you just kind of fell in step with whatever role society gave you. Theres an idea that theres a definitive definition of successuntil you get to middle age and realize success is an individual definition of what will make you happy. What will fulfill you in life. Coming to that conclusion is a path of self-awareness, and is completely separate from what society has defined. Its very hard for womenbecause women today, our roles are a reaction to not wanting to be like our moms were. But what does that mean? We still have the highest rate of binge-drinking. We still are overly stressed. We still have a really skewed definition of what strength is. Rose realizes that the only answer to where she needs to go in life lies within herself. Thats the biggest message the movie gives to women. The only answer lies within you.

MC: Apparently, August Wilson once said of his early plays I didnt recognize the poetry in everyday language of black America. I thought I had to change it to create art. Thats such a beautiful quote, and Fences certainly celebrates that poetry; its an extremely dialogue-driven film. Is that part of what drew you to the role?

VD: Yeah, its what draws me to August Wilson, the language, the poetry of the language, and his way of expression simple emotions in a way thats heightened. The other thing that drew me is the writing in generalthe journey of the characters. No character is superfluous in this narrative. Theres no character that comes in at the ninth hour as a device. Everyone exists on their own terms. To play a fully realized characterthere are no words to describe that a gift that is to the actor.

MC: Denzel Washington recently did a Reddit AMA and was asked the weirdest situation hes found himself by accident. So obviously, I have to ask you the same question.

VD: The other night I went to the bathroom in a restaurant, and these two women were talking and were like oh my god, you look like a famous person. I was like, oh, yeah. So I went into the bathroom stall, pulled my Spanx downtwo of my Spanx downand as I sat on the toilet, they said Youre Viola Davis! As I was peeing. And I said, Yeah, thats who I am. They said, Whats going to happen in How to Get Away with Murder?! So, as Im peeing, Im basically telling them, Yeah, Im Viola Davis, yeah, etc. etc. And Im trying to pee reallllly quietly.


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