When it comes to being a dark-skinned black woman, things are still very much the same, according Viola Davis.
So much so that the idea of someone like her playing a character like Annalise Keating on the ABC show “How to Get Away With Murder” is one that is a true rarity.
“That being said, when you do see a woman of color onscreen, the paper-bag test is still very much alive and kicking. That’s the whole racial aspect of colorism: If you are darker than a paper bag, then you are not sexy, you are not a woman, you shouldn’t be in the realm of anything that men should desire,” Davis told TheWrap for its cover story on the Emmy Awards. “And in the history of television and even in film, I’ve never seen a character like Annalise Keating played by someone who looks like me. My age, my hue, my sex. She is a woman who absolutely culminates the full spectrum of humanity our askew sexuality, our askew maternal instincts. She’s all of that, and she’s a dark-skin black woman.”
Davis’ comments on being a dark-skinned woman in Hollywood are among those shared while chatting with TheWrap on topics ranging from to ageism and sexism to racism.
As for what makes Annalise one that strikes a nerve with viewers, the actress feels the character has something women can identify with.
“I felt like there should be something in each episode for women to look at and feel like it was familiar,” she said as she touched on a famous scene in the show that showed her character sitting down and taking off her wig.
“Well, I didn’t want to be the Vogue woman,” Davis explained. “I didn’t want to be the woman who came in with the sexualized – I say sexualized, not sexy, because sexy is a certain self-consciousness to sexuality – I say that Annalise is sexual. Every time you see that sexual, mysterious, kind of cold woman, she always looks like she has that blow-dried hair and that dewy skin and, you know, those Double-Zero clothes. I did not want to be that woman because I don’t know that woman. And I’ve been watching that woman in movies for several years. And I felt like this was my chance to woman up.”
To see Davis’ entire interview with TheWrap, check out the video above.