Viola Davis hits back at ‘hurtful’ criticism of her portrayal of Michelle Obama

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FILE - Viola Davis arrives at the premiere of
Viola Davis has shared her thoughts about criticism over her portrayal of Michelle Obama (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

Viola Davis has responded to the ongoing criticism of her portrayal of Michelle Obama in the new drama series, The First Lady.

The Oscar-winning actor has gone viral for the way she chose to play the former First Lady as many accused the star of exaggeratedly pursing her lips in a way that was 'unnecessary'.

Indeed, fans online have labelled her performance as 'distracting', 'over-the-top' and 'ridiculous' while critics also found fault with Viola’s impersonation of the way Mrs Obama purses her lips in real life.

In a new interview, The Help star said it is “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work”.

Speaking to BBC News, she acknowledged that criticism is an “occupational hazard” for actors and that it was something she struggled with.

“How do you move on from the hurt, from failure? But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance,” she asked.

The How To Get Away With Murder star added: “Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either.

Former first lady Michelle Obama begins her book tour with a stop at the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Former first lady Michelle Obama begins her book tour with a stop at the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

“They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know… So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you.”

She went on to defend her performance by stating it was her job as a “leader” to make bold choices for the show.

Davis, who is a producer of the TV series, also argued that playing a well-known figure was always a risk because “either you’re doing too much or not enough”.

Viola Davis at the Oscars. (ABC via Getty Images)
Viola Davis at the Oscars. (ABC via Getty Images)

The Oscar-winning actress portrays the wife of Barack Obama in the Showtime drama, which also stars Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, following the achievements and challenges faced by the women throughout their time at the White House.

Read more: Whitney Houston biopic teases Naomi Ackie as the late singer in first look poster

The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star previously admitted she was ‘terrified’ about what Mrs Obama would think of her portrayal, and said she watched the former US first lady’s documentary Becoming at least 22 times in preparation.

Mrs Obama was the first African American woman to serve as the First Lady in the White House, from 2009 until 2017, while her husband was President.

The First Lady does not have a UK release date yet.

Watch: Oprah announces Viola Davis’ memoir as book club pick

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