*Actress Viola Davis addresses the elephant in the room regarding her forthcoming film “The Help.”
There has already been frustration expressed from those who simply heard that two-time Academy Award nominee Viola Davis is playing a maid in her next movie – without knowing anything about her character from the book upon which the film is based.
But fans of the novel understand that Aibileen is a complex, multi-layered individual who ultimately puts her life and livelihood on the line, just by agreeing to tell her own truth about her life as a maid – all for a new book written by a white woman in town with far less to lose.
Aibleen’s single decision, and those of all the maids in town who agree to be interviewed for the book, were deliberate attempts to shake up the institutionalized status quo in 1961 Mississippi, a move as defiant and dangerous as a civil rights marcher staring down a police baton, fire hose or attack dog.
“It’s really interesting when you have someone fighting for something and risking their lives. Because I’ll tell you one thing right now, not a lot of people do that, not at all.” Davis told us during interviews for the film. “They may risk a paycheck, they may risk a couple hours of their time. But risking a life? I think that’s pretty courageous.
“That’s how I defined Aibileen and that ultimately made me want to play her.”
But there was much more to her decision.
In the audio bonus below, Davis explains how she was initially turned off by the thought of playing a maid – until she realized Aibileen’s particular journey isn’t as “black and white” as people think. Plus, she gives an emotional response to EUR’s Lee Bailey about the frustration of having to defend her decision to take on a such a role, which some folks in the black community view as a step backward.