Viola Davis opens up about ‘stress’ of playing Michelle Obama in new Showtime series
Viola Davis says it was stressful playing former first lady Michelle Obama, 58, on Showtime’s new series The First Lady — because high expectations are placed on portraying a person loved by so many.
Davis, 56, took on the role in the 10-part series, which she also produced, but she now admits she is relieved that the production is over.
“I’m glad it’s over!” she said on Monday night Jimmy Kimmel Live. “I mean, the tension. Because everyone loves – loves Michelle Obama. They know what she sounds like, they know what she looks like.
“And I’m like, ‘I don’t want Michelle Obama to call me and berate me.'”
Viola Davis Says It Was Stressful Playing Former First Lady Michelle Obama On Showtime’s New Series The First Lady
Davis (left), 56, took on the role in the 10-part series, which she also produced, but now admits she’s relieved that production is over
“I’m glad it’s over!” she said on Monday night Jimmy Kimmel Live. “I mean, the tension. Because everyone loves – loves – Michelle Obama’
The First Lady premieres Sunday, but Kimmel and his wife already got a sneak peek — and he sang Davis’s praises on his show.
“Crazy how good you are at this,” he told her. ‘It’s not just the voice you have, it’s [also] The walking? It’s crazy how much you’ve become Michelle Obama,” said Jimmy Kimmel.
The series also stars Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson plays Eleanor Roosevelet, but Kimmel noted that Davis had the biggest challenge because she plays someone who is still alive.
“It may seem like you’re complimenting me, but you’re only increasing my fear. That’s all you do now,” she said.
In fact, she was incredulous at the suggestion that she’d contacted the former first lady about the role or sent her screeners.
“They know what she sounds like, they know what she looks like,” the actress (left) said of viewers’ expectations
“I’m hiding from Michelle. I’m hiding. I’m hiding in my house,” Davis said (given recreating a portrait of the former first lady)
“I’m hiding from Michelle. I’m hiding. I’m hiding in my house,” she said. “I’m not sending her anything.”
Davis — who has won an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and four Screen Actors Guild Awards — seems concerned that the former first lady may not like something about her performance.
“That’s the kind of thing where you have to prostrate yourself on the floor and just go, ‘Okay, Michelle, I messed up,'” she said.
Although Davis didn’t speak to Obama during or after the making of the series, she has spoken to her before — but she told… Deadline she keeps most of their conversation content private.
What’s dramatic about Michelle Obama? I’ll tell you what’s dramatic. She’s a black woman and the first black woman in the White House built by slaves, someone who was literally seen as overly masculine, not feminine, angry, hostile, and I’ll share one thing she said to me,” she said.
Davis (pictured in the show) did not speak to Obama during or after the making of the series, but she has spoken to her before
The series also stars Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford
Gillian Anderson plays Eleanor Roosevelt (pictured). The series premieres on Sunday
She said, ‘I’m not even an angry person.’ Isn’t that something? Look, I’m kind of an angry person, but she’s not. So what I wanted to do was honor her and not the perception of what black women should be.”
Davis’ Obama has some emotional moments in the series, and Davis said they used artistic freedom — like when Michelle uses the n-word in a conversation with her husband about racist attacks.
“We use creative freedom because we all know that Michelle Obama is someone who doesn’t like politics, the brutality of it,” she said.
And so it was an imagined conversation. And I’ve insisted on using those words because I know those are the words black people use in private. We do. We use those words privately, especially to drive something home, and Michelle Obama is from Chicago’s South Side.
“So I felt it was imagined, but I felt good that it was something that could have happened.”