Nominee Q&A

Oscars: Viola Davis on Denzel Washington's "Very Rare" Directing Method and What White Americans Can Learn From 'Fences'

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in 'Fences'

"We're complicated ... and we do our best with what we've been given. We come into the world exactly like you," the nominee says of how the film offers a new way to look at black Americans.

It's fitting that Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to receive three Oscar nominations, thanks to Fences. Starring with Denzel Washington, who also directed the adaptation of August Wilson's play, Davis plays Rose, the emotional heart of a black family in the 1950s. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke with the actress about the project for THR last fall.

You also were directed by Denzel in Antwone Fisher. What kind of director is he?

I see Denzel as an actor's director, which is very rare, by the way.

August Wilson once said that his plays offer white Americans a different way to look at black Americans. What do you think white Americans will get from the film?

I think sometimes what people miss about black people is that we're complicated, that we are indeed messy, that we do our best with what we've been given. We come into the world exactly like you. It's just that there are circumstances in the culture that are dictated and put on our lives that we have to fight against.

Your portrayal of Rose is filled with vitality, intelligence and a surprising amount of optimism. What drives her?

She says it in the end: "That's what life offered me in the way of being a woman, and I took it." You're only as good as your options.

This story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.