Award-winning actress Viola Davis has shut down critics who came at her over her portrayal of Michelle Obama in the Showtime series The First Lady. The 56-year-old’s facial expressions – particularly her pursed lips – to imitate the former first lady were labeled as overly exaggerated by some people on social media.
In an interview with BBC, the Oscar-winning actress said that though criticism is an “occupational hazard” in her field of work, it is still “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work”.
“How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?” she asked. “But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance,” she admitted.
Some viewers who took issue with Davis’ portrayal of Michelle Obama made their feelings known on Twitter. One viewer reportedly labeled Davis’ “exaggerated” acting as “unnecessary and borderline insulting.”
Another user said “they set” Davis up “by allowing her keep her mouth that way throughout the filming.” “It’s so cringey and distracting,” the user added.
“Viola Davis’s face must have been so tired,” tweeted a different user.
But Davis fired back at the negative reviews, saying, “Critics absolutely serve no purpose.” She, however, clarified she wasn’t “saying that to be nasty either.”
“They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth’. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you,” Davis added.
“But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that.”
Davis also said that portraying a popular figure like Michelle Obama was “almost impossible”. “Either you’re doing too much or not enough,” she said, adding that she doesn’t know the former first lady’s reaction to her portrayal.
“I don’t have any personal contact with Michelle Obama,” Davis revealed.