Viola Davis’ career advice: ‘You have to exercise the power of No. Press reset’

Viola Davis is covering L’Officiel magazine, and the editorial really captures her. They dressed her in bright solid colors and in sequins with gorgeous styling. She looks like she’s going to an event to accept an award. Her interview is just as good as the photos. As we’ve seen from Viola for years, she has a way of explaining things that seems so insightful yet accessible, like “why didn’t I think of that?” Viola explains diversity not as a special case, but as matter-of-fact. We should be seeing more women of color in lead roles across the board, not just in prestige and historical films. She also talks about her career philosophy and approach, and I came away from this with a lot of good advice. Viola is getting Oscar buzz for Widows, which I haven’t seen yet but Kaiser saw it and loved it. I’m going to watch that and so many more movies over the holidays, I’m so excited for that.

On if she still loves acting
“I am in the season of being challenged by that question. I’m sort of trying to find a way to fall back in love with it again in the midst of the responsibility of the other stuff, in promoting movies, in contractual obligation for publicity. All the things that are not about my work. I think that you have to really exercise the power of No.”

On losing your passion and finding it again
“You’re gonna lose your passion. You’re gonna become disillusioned. But in the midst of it, you have to press the reset button, you do. And then you have to go back to something that challenges you. It doesn’t have to be in movies, because not everyone has the opportunity to just say, ‘Oh, give me a great role in a movie, so I can be challenged.’ It could be theater, it could be writing a book. It could be just taking a break and doing nothing. But to have the courage to extract yourself from the mess and the noise and to press the reset button is the only way to find your passion again and to find the love again. But I’m in the midst of that right now.”

On her production company and inclusion
“I feel like our production company is the poster child of what it means to be inclusive with narrative in this business. It is not just my hope for myself [to be cast in roles not specifically written for a black woman]; it’s my hope for every person of color, and I don’t just mean black—I mean Hispanic, I mean Asian. I mean for any person of color to be seen as not myopic. If we are committed to inclusion, then that same role that you’re thinking for Sandra Bullock, or for Nicole Kidman, or for Saoirse Ronan, or for Anne Hathaway, can be thought of for Michelle Yeoh, or for myself, or for Taraji P. Henson, or for Catalina Sandino Moreno. That is my hope for the business: I don’t always have to be in a Civil Rights movie. I don’t always have to make a statement. I don’t always have to save the world. Sometimes I just want to be a woman in a story.”

[From L’officiel]

I needed to hear her advice about being challenged, finding your passion and trying something different. It’s also important to know how and when you can step away from things that aren’t working, especially when you’re giving too much to other people and projects that aren’t moving you forward. Sometimes this type of advice can seem trite, but there’s a reason it’s common and that’s because it’s true. I also like the idea of pressing reset as a metaphor for making life changes. Hit reboot and move on like a boss.

Speaking of that, Viola has been cast to play Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), the first black woman elected to Congress.

photos credit: L’Officiel and via Instagram, Twitter

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12 Responses to “Viola Davis’ career advice: ‘You have to exercise the power of No. Press reset’”

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  1. Lala11_7 says:

    I actually got TEARS in my eyes when I saw that Viola is going to pay Ms. Shirley!!! Growing up…Shirley Chisholm was EVERYTHANG to me and everyone I know….and I’ve been wanting her story to come to the screen for over 40 years…and they picked the PERFECT person to play her…

    And everything about that photoshoot…is on POINT!

  2. DiegoInSF says:

    Widows is so so good! I’m so angry it’s not doing better at the box office. Please everyone go see it before it’s gone from theaters! That’s the only way we’ll get more movies with WOCs headlining! I love Viola so much, she’s just mesmerizing on screen!

    • eto says:

      Ugh Widows was SO good! And tbh, Liam Neeson has never been sexier to me than in this film.

    • Killjoy says:

      I LOVED it! I was shocked, walking out though, when my husband said he didn’t like it that much. It’s just such a quirky, fun movie, but I feel like everyone expects heist movies to be either high art or blockbusters, and Widows is a weird in-between.

  3. Ronaldinhio says:

    This is the wrong time to comment given the power of her words…but

    My god she is beautiful and those colours sing on her

    • Alex says:

      I agree, Viola is absolutely stunning. I think she’s easily one of the best actresses around, right at the top of any list.

  4. LeaTheFrench says:

    She looks beyond beautiful on that cover! And she is such an amazingly talented actress.

  5. Jess says:

    I agree – Widows was awesome! And she is awesome. Now I really need to figure out how to press reset on my career! I did it in my personal life and it was tough but worth it, and now I just need to do it at work.

  6. Cleo23 says:

    Off topic, but I thought that quote was attributed to Muhammad Ali? Or am I wrong?

  7. Chloeee says:

    Ugh I needed to hear that. Thank you Viola

  8. Killjoy says:

    So, I’m very late to the Viola Davis train, but I just saw Widows, and man, she is one incredible leading lady. These photos are great. I also loved the new actress Elizabeth Debicki – they were great in scenes together.

    I’m at the “do-nothing” part of my career and desperately need to find my passion and have a reset. I guess having a ton of time to comment on gossip blogs is nice…but my passion is probably going to come from elsewhere, LOL.

  9. Anna says:

    Viola is everything! Exquisite, beautiful, brilliant, and oh my god when I found out she’s going to play Shirley Chisholm!!!!! Can’t wait for that. So wonderful to hear about the projects like this that she’s producing, starring in, etc. So much love for her.