Viola Davis Explains Why Annalise's Wig Had to Come Off

by Caroline Frost for The Huffington Post

"Annalise Keating is all over the place," says the woman behind her on screen, Oscar nominee Viola Davis. "I'm concerned with my health. She just wants power. She wears a heavy duty mask every day, which must be exhausting. I couldn't do it."

Annalise Keating is the central figure in 'How To Get Away With Murder' - a thriller drama from the guiding hand of Shonda Rimes, the one-woman game-changer who, with 'Grey's Anatomy' and more recently 'Scandal', has been credited with redefining the role of women of color on primetime TV, something of which Viola is in no doubt.

"She redefined us as something bold and strong," she asserts, sounding both of these down the phone. "We're no longer supporting, we're not necessarily nurturing, we're not asexual. We're none of it. And Shonda doesn't apologize or make a big deal of it. So the viewer simply forgets, and we can all get on with the story."

When 'How To Get Away With Murder' debuted, along with acclaim for its zinging storyline of law professor Keating and her students becoming entangled in a murder conspiracy that shakes the entire university - think 'Scandal' meets 'The Secret History' - there came an admiring but controversial article by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley, describing Rimes as "an angry black woman" and Viola Davis as "not classically beautiful". How's this stunningly beautiful actress feeling about those words today?

She laughs. "I think those kind of statements have been heard by women of colour their entire lives.

"It's a label, and I'm pleased that the reaction it caused meant we were part of a huge moment in history.

"So many women were messaging, using the hashtag #notclassicallybeautiful, with pictures of themselves - afros, crew cuts, weaves, you name it. It was phenomenal."

With this seamless segue into the topic of hair, I ask Viola about a key scene for Annalise Keating - the moment when she divests herself of her trinkets, her designer clothes and finally, and significantly, her wig.

"I pushed for that to happen." says Viola. "I said, she's not going to bed with her wig on.

"It could be powerful and liberating, but she's got to take her wig off. Because who Annalise is in public is a big fat lie, and we have to see her taking off the armour, which is so thick, it becomes all the more dramatic when she removes it, and you see all the pain."

This story was originally published on The Huffington Post. Read the rest here.

Photo credit: ABC

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster


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