A new article from the Los Angeles Times where Viola & Denzel share their three favorite scenes from their new film Fences.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis played married couple Troy and Rose Maxson 114 times in the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilsons Fences. That number came up often in a recent conversation with the pair while Davis was on her lunch break from shooting her TV series, How to Get Away With Murder.

For Davis, that figure signifies the amount of time she needed to connect with her character, a devoted housewife living in the shadow of her husband, and then revisit Roses disappointments in the film version of Fences, which Washington directed. Most narratives dont have a 33-page scene or a four-page monologue, she says. Its a hard role.

Washington brandishes the number as a way of explaining the studios confidence in his vision for the movie adaptation. He did not test screen Fences. One hundred and fourteen performances? Were good, Washington says.

The two recently won SAG Awards honors for their work in the film. Over the course of a salad and mushrooms appetizer (Davis) and club sandwich (Washington), they talked about the three scenes that traced the arc of the shifting dynamics of the Maxsons life together, moving from contentment to betrayal to walled-off resignation.

Scene 1: Its Friday afternoon and Troy and his friend Bono arrive at Troys home in Pittsburghs Hill District. Rose greets them and, briefly, but distinctly, we gain an understanding of their 18 years together.

Davis: Youve got to sit with them. And Im telling you, the biggest issue I have and the biggest challenge took me 114 performances to get over is that I didnt want to play Rose as someone who felt swallowed up by her life. I wanted to present a woman who loved her husband and really give a portrait of a marriage thats working. Its flawed, like all marriages are. But its working.

Washington: He says, See this woman, Bono? I love this woman. I love this woman so much it hurts. I love her so much I done run out of ways of loving her.

Hes not saying that thinking about softening the blow for whats coming later. Youve got to believe these two people love each other. If you dont believe that, who cares? Youd be like, Oh yeah, I could see that coming. Without the joy, theres no pain.

Davis: I do believe what happens in marriages is you see the cracks. You look over at your partner sometimes and you think, Why cant you be different? What did I get myself into? And the next moment you say, But I love him. Im going to give myself to him anyway. Thats Rose. Maybe theres a little semblance of frustration the gray in her hair. Her hips are wider now. She always has the apron on. But shes happy.

Oftentimes, when I see marriages on screen, its, We want to cast someone who youre attracted to and have a sexual tension with. And thats part of marriage, but its more than that. When you see two people together, theres more that connects them other than sex and feeling like theyre going to be skipping down the street at the end of the day. And that different kind of connection that binds us took us 114 performances to get because its deeper.

Washington: I told all the actors, Lets start at the beginning, not where we left off. Dont assume we know the end. Lets look for the love as much as we can. Lets infuse as much love so when things turn it means something. Not in a false way. They really do love each other. But you know, life happens and he made a serious mistake.

I shot a scene in a bar as part of that six-month, passage-of-time sequence, a little one of me with Alberta [the woman Troy impregnates]. And women didnt like it for obvious reasons. But somebody said to me which made me cut it that they didnt know it was Alberta. They thought it was another woman. And Troy had told Bono, I wasnt out there looking for nothing. That has to be true. Otherwise, hes not just a womanizer but a liar as well.

Scene 2: Troy confesses that he has cheated on Rose with another woman, a woman whos now pregnant. And hes not going to stop seeing her. Devastated, Rose nearly collapses and then vents her hurt and anger. Between camera coverage and close-ups, Davis performed her long monologue 23 times for the film.

Davis: My whole theory about that speech is that it would be every womans speech if theyve been in a marriage for a long time and their husband came home and said, You know, I got another woman pregnant. Because theres not one woman who hasnt sacrificed a hell of a lot for her marriage. Were the sacrificers.

People ask if it was easy to slip back into being Rose. It was comfortably uncomfortable. Its very difficult being in the scenes, but always in the background, to be part of something, but not. Its difficult to play someone who has a whole life going on inside her all the time thats not being verbalized. And its difficult to play a woman who absolutely didnt see this coming.

Washington: Whats Troy thinking shes going to say to him? I dont think he thinks that far in advance. Not every man walks into a situation where hes going to reveal news like that to his wife and be nice about it.

Davis: I always say that theres one moment in a persons life that is no-holds-barred, lack-of-vanity, absolutely traumatizing. It could be when a parent dies. It could be a really bad breakup where you have the snot-dripping, leaving-poop-and-pee-on-the-floor moment. Those are the moments you try to forget as much as possible because they are not our shining moments. They are moments that are purely animalistic where youre operating out of instinct.

I truly believe what Marlon Brando says there are times when youre in conversation with someone and youre fighting for your life. And thats this scene. Rose is fighting for her life. Her life is her husband and her son. Thats her purpose. Hes taken that all away.

Washington: That scene hits such a nerve. August Wilson just sucks you in from the beginning. Everything about the place and the people that backyard looks so real and familiar. Theyre laughing, having a good time. Oh, its just like us. And then things start to happen. [He adopts a glum tone.] Oh. Its just like us. You know, its just like us until it really is.

Scene 3: Troy returns from the hospital with his newborn baby daughter. The mother, Alberta, died in childbirth. Holding the baby, Troy, feeling scared and alone, asks Rose to help care for her. Rose consents and then delivers the knockout line: From right now this child got a mother. But you a womanless man.

Washington: I remember doing it on stage one night and I came in with the baby and some woman says, [Loud sigh] Oh, Denzel. [Laughs]

Davis: As an actor, theres always that thing that youre playing and then theres the other side of it thats fighting against the thing that you want. And the thing that Rose is fighting against is that she wants that baby. But shes not going to let Troy know. That gives the scene a place to go.

Washington: I could always feel the tension in the audience in this scene. They want Rose to say something because they themselves want to say something to Troy. By this point, their feelings are pretty strong on the subject! But even with all that, I dont think they expect Rose to say that.

Davis: You a womanless man. Every woman has an idea in her mind of what they would say in that moment, but I dont think they would have said it that perfectly.

Washington: After she says that, I put my head up and hes trying to be a man, trying to find a way to be on top. And shes walked away. Its like, youre on your own, buddy.

That moment and then later, him alone in the bedroom before he starts yelling out the window, where you go, No, he cant play baseball anymore. Hes just an overweight old man with a big gut. You want to hate him and you want to love him. Hes taking care of his brother and he did this awful thing.

Viola just says it so great about these characters: Theyre unapologetic. Theyre flawed. Theyre human. Youve got to deal with them, warts and all. And thats the power of the story. They are us.

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