Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson and a host of this year’s potential Emmy-contending actresses sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a candid roundtable discussion about race, sexism, nudity and more in television and film.
During their discussion, Viola recalls being mortified after seeing herself in the pilot for ABC’s runaway hit How to Get Away with Murder.
When I saw myself for the first time in the pilot episode, I was mortified. I saw the fake eyelashes and, “Are you kidding me? Who is going to believe this?” And then I thought: “OK, this is your moment to not typecast yourself, to play a woman who is sexualized and do your investigative work to find out who this woman is and put a real woman on TV who’s smack-dab in the midst of this pop fiction.
She also discussed those sex scenes with Murder co-star Billy Brown, who plays Detective Nate Lahey on the series.
I refuse to drink a smoothie for breakfast to get down to a size 2. It’s just not going to happen with me. I’ve done a couple of sex scenes in “How to Get Away with Murder,” even one where was I thrown up against the wall, and I’m like, “I really don’t want to get thrown up against the wall anymore.” I threw my back out! (Laughter.) I had to just allow myself to be uncomfortable. I’m not going to stand in front of a mirror, or else Viola will kick in and go, “OK, my titties are saggy and I have stretch marks.”
Keeping with the subject of sex and nudity, Taraji revisited stripping down for her role in Baby Boy.
My first time being nude was my first movie, “Baby Boy.” I knew the scene was coming. I remember thinking, “Taraji cannot be in that room.” So I literally went home and stripped down naked, stood in front of the mirror and looked at every morsel of my body, and I dealt with it. The next day, I was so free. I was so ready.
Early on in the discussion, Taraji discussed her uncertainty about taking the role of Cookie.
Cookie scared the hell out of me. Just before I got the role, I’d said, “F— it all, I’m going back to theater.” I felt lazy and like I needed to sharpen the tools. So I did theater at The Pasadena Playhouse. Then my manager said,”You have to read this script.” I’m like, “Hip-hop? Oh my God, what are they trying to do? Fox is going to pick this up? This isn’t HBO?” And then I got nervous and started pacing the floor. “Oh my God, Cookie is bigger than life. You will love her or hate her.” “Empire” has forced people to have conversations that they were afraid to have. And that is what art is supposed to do. I just didn’t know it was going to shake things up this much! (Laughs.)
For a lot more, head on over to The Hollywood Reporter. Such a great read!
Watch Viola and Taraji discuss their roles on How to Get Away with Murder and Empire below.