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Viola Davis Has An Emotional Explanation For The Scars Her Character Has In The Woman King

Gina Prince-Bythewood wants audiences to join her on a journey through West Africa, where the historical kingdom of Dahomey protect its land and its people with the assistance of the Agojie, female warriors trained from an early age to be the best of the best in all forms of combat. Think of them as the Dora Milaje, the fierce soldiers who guard Wakanda in Black Panther… primarily because the Dora Milaje were inspired by the actual Agojie. And in Prince-Bythewood’s hands, the story of the Agojie told through The Woman King is proving to be a critically acclaimed Oscar contender, and a possible vehicle for Viola Davis to earn her second statue.

In the film, currently in theaters, Viola Davis plays Nanisca, veteran leader and overall mentor for the Agojie warriors. The entire Woman King cast looks up to and respect Nanisca because of the battlefield experience she brings to the table, which are reflected by the many scars found on the woman’s body. When we spoke with Davis about the addition of the scars to her body, and the meaning behind each for her character, she opened up to CinemaBlend and exclaimed:

I think the scars were a badge of honor. Because it showed that she lived a life, and she survived. And I think that a lot of people feel like you’re not your scars. I believe that you ARE your scars. I do. And not just the scars on our body. The scars that were even inside her from being a rape survivor. And that’s one of the things that I wanted to pass on to Nawi in that moment, is that your scars are your pride. They’re your badge. They’re your sword! You use them as warrior fuel.

You can tell that the women of the Agojie in The Woman King take pride in the fact that they have emerged on the other side of a battle, damaged but still intact. As Viola Davis states, it’s visual proof that you have experienced life, and endured hardship, but figured out how to prevail. But as Davis notes, this is not a lesson that has to be contained to the West African kingdom of Dahomey. As she notes in our interview:

I think that’s a great message for women today. Because I think sometimes we want it so easy, we don’t want the scars. But I think that by the time, I say, God takes me from this earth, I want a lot of battle scars. That means that I fought, and I fought to win, and I was brave enough to fight.

Amen! If you need more reason to see The Woman King in theaters this weekend beyond what is shown in the original trailer, read our review because it may help convince you. We also spoke with director Gina Prince-Bythewood and producer Cathy Schulman on CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast earlier this week, and their insights into the movie are also a really great way to process what you saw after the fact. The movie stars Davis, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, and a brilliant newcomer named Thuso Mbedu, who might get into the Oscar race if there’s any justice in this world.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.