Davis at the SAG Awards, 2015
|Born||(1965-08-11) August 11, 1965
St. Matthews, South Carolina, U.S.
|Alma mater||Rhode Island College (1988)
Juilliard School (1993)
|Home town||Central Falls, Rhode Island|
|Spouse(s)||Julius Tennon (m. 2003)|
We grew up in abject poverty. Acting, writing scripts and skits were a way of escaping our environment at a very young age.
When you’re working as an actor, you don’t think that when you get out of school, it’s going to be so hard to get a job. Just to get a job. Any job. Whatsoever. You don’t think that people are going to see you in a certain way.
And this is what was fascinating to me about ‘The Help’; they were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.
I heard about the book and I said, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to read this book,’ and I didn’t know that a white woman wrote it. Nobody said that to me, they just said, ‘The Help – Oh my god, you’ve got to read it.’ Everyone failed to mention it was a white woman, I think, because nobody really wants to talk about race.
I can’t deal with actors! I can’t deal with myself. We’re neurotic and miserable … I love doing what I’m doing, but while I’m doing it, I’m miserable.
That’s why I do what I do, and that’s why I wanted to be an actress from the time I was six years old. If I can’t effectively move people, then I would prefer not to do it.
I think that’s something that people feel that I do really well; I don’t mind it, because ultimately I think the characters I play move people, and who wouldn’t want to move people?
And that’s what people want to see when they go to the theater. I believe at the end of the day, they want to see themselves – parts of their lives they can recognize. And I feel if I can achieve that, it’s pretty spectacular.
I’ve been online doing all kinds of research and that seems to be the constant criticism, that Aibileen’s accent was just too thick. And for me, I don’t want anything to distract from the character.
Your internal dialogue has got to be different from what you say. And, you know, in film, hopefully that registers and speaks volumes. It’s always the unspoken word and what’s happening behind someone’s eyes that makes it so rich.
Well, first of all, you read the script a million times. Because what the script gives you are given circumstances. Given circumstances are all the facts of your character.
Can I just tell you, I think it’s the most beautiful thing about young people today, it gives me so much hope for the future, that they don’t really recognize race the way my generation does.
Sometimes you take a job for the money, sometimes you take it for the location, sometimes you take it for the script; there are just a number of reasons, and ultimately what you see is the whole landscape of it. But I can tell you from behind the scenes – that’s what it is, as an actor.
Tyler Perry’s ‘Madea Goes to Jail!’ Which, I have to tell you, of everything that I’ve ever done in my career, that’s the only thing that’s perked up the ears of my nieces and nephews. That is it, that’s done it for them. That made me a bona fide star in their eyes!
In life, you know, they do this in focus groups; if you were in such and such circumstance, what would you do? Well, you never know what you’re going do unless you’re faced with it.
I didn’t see myself any different from my white counterparts in school. I just didn’t! I thought I could do what they did. And what I didn’t do well, I thought people were going to give me the opportunity to do well, because maybe they saw my talent, so they would give me a chance. I had no idea that they would see me completely different.
I worked in television; I’m the Failed Pilot Queen, I’ve done so many television shows, pilots, theater … when you do it for so long, I’m telling you, you get to the point where it becomes varied because you take what’s available for a number of reasons. It’s just an occupational hazard.
I do believe that there are African Americans who have thick accents. My mom has a thick accent; my relatives have thick accents. But sometimes you have to adjust when you go into the world of film, TV, theatre, in order to make it accessible to people.
I love Wal-Mart. You can put that down. I love Wal-Mart. My husband and I hang out there.
Sometimes you see how humanity can rise above any kind of cultural ills and hate that a person’s capacity to love and communicate and forgive can be bigger than anything else.