Viola Davis is clapping back at those who criticized her performance as Michelle Obama.
Showtime recently debuted its new series The First Lady featuring Davis portraying Obama. After hours of studying Obama’s speech and mannerism, Davis still faced heat from the viewers for the way she interpreted the role.
Many felt her facial expressions, especially her overly-pursed lips, were making a mockery and a caricature out of Obama.
Davis, who’s privy to all of the online backlash, told BBC News “Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either.”
She continued, “They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth’. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you.”
As an award-winning actress, Davis said that it’s her duty to make bold choices — some of those choices may succeed, while others fail. Davis noted that it would be “almost impossible” to satisfy everyone when playing someone as well-known as Obama.
“Either you’re doing too much or not enough,” Davis said.
She noted, “Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.”
Davis told Vanity Fair ahead of the premiere that she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to live up to the task of portraying the lawyer, writer, and activist.
“She’s an icon. Everyone knows what she looks like and what she sounds like so I am absolutely terrified,” Davis said. “But I’m mostly terrified about what she will think. I don’t want to insult her and have her calling me. I gotta make the sister look good.”
After facing mass social media scrutiny, Davis told BBC that she has no “personal contact with Michelle Obama,” so she’s unsure what the former first lady thought of her portrayal.