Viola Davis’ role as Aibileen Clark in the 2011 movie The Help won the actor her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress. But, despite this, she says she wishes she’d never accepted the role in the first place.
In a Q & A session with the New York Times at The Toronto International Film Festival, Davis shared her feelings of regret about starring in the Oscar nominated-movie about black maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi.
“A better question is, have I ever done roles that I’ve regretted,” Davis said. “I have, and The Help is on that list.”
She explained that her regret was due to the way the movie failed to show the perspective of the black characters and to honour their voices.
“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” Davis said. “I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom.”
The Help has been widely criticised for downplaying the true horror of living as a black person in the U.S. in the era of racial segregation as well as for perpetuating the myth of the white saviour by putting emphasis on the righteousness of white characters.
Davis feels that The Help should have been centred around the experiences of black characters.
“If you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it,” she said. “I never heard that in the course of the movie.”