Actress Viola Davis attends HBO's Official 2015 Emmy After Party at The Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Photograph by David Livingston—Getty Images
By Samantha Cooney and Motto
December 21, 2016

This article originally appeared in Motto.

Viola Davis wants to change the way black women are portrayed in films and television.

Davis, who’s garnering Oscar buzz for her role in Fences, opened up to the Daily Beast about her frustration with how Hollywood too frequently casts black actors in insignificant, supporting roles. “I’m trying to change the black woman coming in at the ninth hour to give a sassy line and walk out, to be the best friend and just be the sounding board giving information,” Davis told the Daily Beast. “I want to know her. I want to sit with her, and I want to sit with her pathology.”

The actress has notably played strong characters throughout her career, including lawyer Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder, and says that her character in Fences — Rose, a matriarch of a black family in 1950s Pittsburgh — fits that bill.

“Rose is a Fully. Realized. Woman,” she said. “She is complete in her journey. She’s complicated. She is not just a walking social statement. She is not just someone there to give you comfort and love and be maternal, or to sass, or to just be someone’s best friend. She is strong, vulnerable, joyful, and… messy.”

While accepting an award for her role in Fences at the Critics’ Choice Awards earlier this month, Davis delivered a well-received speech about the importance of self-acceptance. And she hopes that the industry follows suit and creates more authentic — and complicated — roles for women of color.

“I’m going to believe that’s changing because I think that women and I think people of color, what they’re doing is they’re now getting it. They’re getting the fact that the waiting for the change is not the ticket. The ticket is in creating the change,” she said. “It’s in being the instrument of the change.”

Read Davis’ full interview with the Daily Beast here.

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