Viola Davis May Play Pioneering Congresswoman Barbara Jordan In Biopic
Even though she narrowly missed out on a Best Actress Oscar statue a few weeks ago, Viola Davis is still in pretty much the best position of her career, with more name recognition, even more prestige, and a lot of people who think if they put her in a good role, the Oscar could finally be right around the corner. But Davis isn't going to take this moment in the sun just to work for somebody else-- she's taking matters into her own hands.
Variety reports that Davis is considering a role as Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, in a film she would produce with her husband, Julius Tennon. They've teamed up with producers Shelly Glasser and Diane Nabatoff to acquire the rights to the book Barbara Jordan: American Hero, and they're all developing the film along with Paris Barclay, a director whose career has mostly been in TV, directing everything from NYPD Blue to Glee. He also directed the 1996 Boyz in the Hood parodyDon't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, which seems about 100 years away from the tone you'd want for a biopic about a game-changing political figure-- but presumably he's had plenty of time to grow up since then.
Jordan was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate in 1966-- at a time when the Jim Crow South was alive and well-- and in 1972 was the first black woman from the South to join the U.S. House of Representatives. According to Variety she's known for solemn and resonant speaking style, which you can see in this video from the hearing on whether or not to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974. Even if you just watch a minute of it, you can tell how striking she was.
Hearing Jordan speak, you understand why the producers specifically sought out Viola Davis for the role-- it's hard to imagine anyone else with a presence nearly as commanding. I generally dread biopics for the way they prop up the central character and often have no narrative drive, but this one might be worth watching if only to see Davis dig into a character this specific and fascinating. Davis just lost the Oscar to Meryl Streep, who starred as a powerful female politician in a biopic; maybe this is the chance for Davis to turn the tables and claim that statue after all.
Back to top
FROM THE WEB