Preview: Viola Davis on creating good roles for people of color

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Golden Globe-winning actress Viola Davis.

CBS News

Golden Globe-winner Viola Davis tells CBS’ “Sunday Morning” she feels an obligation to give back and help create good roles for people of color in Hollywood.

Davis, who has earned raves for her performance opposite Denzel Washington in the film “Fences,” started JuVee Productions in 2011 with her husband, actor Julius Tennon, as a way to create multi-platform projects that help foster diversity in media.

“I just want different narratives for people of color, especially women of color,” Davis tells correspondent Lee Cowan, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday, January 15. “I just want something that’s different. I don’t want us to be put in a box. I want to be kind of a redefinition of who we are. If I can even achieve that in a tiny way, I’ll be good.”

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Viola Davis and Meryl Streep in “Doubt.” Miramax

Davis’ performances earned critical praise early on, making the most of the parts she got, but she told Cowan she wasn’t getting bigger, meatier roles because of her look.

“I have a deep voice,” Davis saoid . “I probably have the ‘character’ look. I am a woman of a certain hue. Those roles, those kinds of diverse roles, weren’t being written for anyone who looked like me.”

The result, however, was a body of work that was praised within the business, yet didn’t get high-profile attention.

“It’s like, I played the doctor, I played the lawyer, I played all those roles, but you didn’t know who I was,” Davis says. “And that was getting tiresome. And you know why? The thing about it is you could create the most specific emotional life for a character, you really do that. You really do your work, but nobody sees it if you don’t have the words. They just don’t see it. It’s like having a great body and being in a burlap sack.”

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Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in “Fences.” Paramount Pictures

Those days are behind her now. The Emmy Award-winner (for “How to Get Away With Murder”) and two-time Academy Award-nominee (for “Doubt” and “The Help”) is generating Oscar buzz for her new film, “Fences,” in which she and Washington reprise their Tony-winning performances of August Wilson’s stage drama.

In a wide-ranging interview, Davis talks about her career in film and television, and her childhood in Central Falls, R.I., where she was raised in a home where money was practically non-existent. 

“I literally would dream about having food in the refrigerator and in the cupboards,” Davis tells Cowan. “That’s it.”

The Emmy Award-winning “CBS Sunday Morning,” hosted by Jane Pauley, is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. Executive producer is Rand Morrison.

Follow the program on Twitter (@CBSSunday), Facebook, Instagram (#CBSSundayMorning) and at cbssundaymorning.com. You can also listen to “Sunday Morning” audio podcasts at Play.it.

     
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