Viola Davis Shares First Look At The Woman King And Story Of Why It Was So Important To Bring “A Character That Had Never Been Seen Before In A Body Like Mine’ To The Screen

Viola Davis on How to Get Away with Murder
(Image credit: ABC)

Viola Davis has played a large swath of notable characters in recent years, from DC’s Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad and Peacemaker to heavy-hitting roles in Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and a TV show How To Get Away with Murder to boot. Next up, she’ll headline and produce her own film The Woman King, another badass action flick from The Old Guard’s Gina Prince-Blythewood. Davis’ physical transformation for the role has been well-documented in recent months, but now she’s sharing why it was so important to tell this heroic action story. 

At CinemaCon 2022, Viola Davis took the stage during Sony’s panel to accept an award and speak about her upcoming 2022 movie. We’d just seen footage of the actress like we’d never seen her before, in full beast mode in Woman King, an action flick that see her running, fighting, and generally looking badass. This isn't the first time the actress will be playing a badass, as Davis accomplished plenty of action in Widows. This time though, she calls the movie a new category for Hollywood, and its tale of Dahomey Amazons looks to be a cross between a real-life historical epic and a superhero film. 

Davis says it was a long battle to get to this point, noting that it was Cecily Tyson who first inspired her calling. She says seeing the actress created a “transformational, radical power" and that it gave her the ability to "believe in something even bigger than my world.” She wanted to bring that to audiences, too, and even the struggles she faced as as a Black actress in Hollywood helped lead her to a point where she could tell the stories she wanted to tell. 

As an actor, I wanted to play characters that had never been seen before in a body that looked like mine. And then when I reached a certain point in my career I wanted to be a producer that championed these stories, with people, with a history that looked like me.

Now that she’s producing herself, she said her goal is to bring “great stories” to the big screen. She also told audiences at CinemaCon there’s one thing she doesn’t want to have on her conscience when she passes, noting, "You know the five words I don’t want to take to my grave would be I was not brave enough," before sharing why it’s important to bring stories like The Woman King to the screen.

I always tell the story of my little daughter who cuddled up to me one night. And I told her a story about a magical land with characters that flew and trees that spoke. And the only thing she could say to me was, ‘Mommy, can I be in the story?’ There is a whole generation, look of people that want to be in the story. And when The Woman King was brought to me I knew it was…. my magnum opus, as much as it was Gina Prince-Blythwood’s magnum opus… all of us.

Initially expected to star Lupita Nyong’o opposite Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu joined The Woman King in 2021. In the time after, the film signed notable cast members including John Boyega, Lashana Lynch and Hero Fiennes Tiffin. The film is expected to premiere on September 16, 2022. 

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.