Viola Davis and Stacey Abrams on the Importance of Community: "Together We Make Progress"

Viola Davis and Stacey Abrams are inspirational women in their own right, so of course their recent interview with Variety is filled with words of wisdom. As part of the publication’s new series spotlighting the incredible Black women of award season, the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom actress and politician, who produced the award-winning documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy, got together to talk about their career highlights, the importance of voting and community, and more. Read ahead for some of their best quotes, and be sure to watch their full chat in the video above.

  • Stacey on how democracy isn’t magic but hard work: “For me, the inauguration is a reminder that voting, that democracy, isn’t magic. There is nothing about democracy that’s magic. It is work. It is hard work. But it’s also medicine. There is a disease of racism that is embedded in the veins of America. There is a disease of bigotry that winds its way throughout how we’ve made our rules and who has access.”
  • Stacey on communities of color joining together to make change: “It’s also about communities of color at large who in each of their ways has faced the kind of discrimination that can rob you of your sense of self and that it’s all of these communities that have to fight, but have to do so in coalition, because by ourselves none of us are powerful enough to get it done, but together we make progress.”
  • Viola on creating her own production company: “I took the reins out of necessity. There aren’t movies that are being done and developed with anyone like me in mind. I’m a 55-year-old dark-skinned woman in Hollywood. I’m still in the ‘maid,’ the ‘urban mother crying over her dead son’s body in the middle of the road’ category. I’m not seen as sexual. The most basic fundamentals of what makes a woman do not trickle down to me. For me to get those roles and be seen in that way, I had to create and develop them myself.”
  • Viola on her favorite project so far: “It was a big one for me. How to Get Away With Murder was my change to create a woman and I feel with Black women that we still have been an extension of our history of being seen as chattel, as being seen as so strong that we’re almost masculine as not feeling any pain, as not being desired, not being embraced. It was my chance to explore womanhood, explore the mess, and even explore the parts of ourselves that are sexually traumatized.”
  • Stacey on encouraging people to vote: “It goes back to making sure that when you’re stirring people up, you don’t do it in a way that says, ‘If you vote, things will change.’ It’s ‘If you don’t vote, you will be damned, because they will continue to hurt you. Why not just take a swing at maybe stopping the hurt? Maybe getting something good?'”
  • Viola on playing Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: “It was a joy to play someone who was that emotionally free and Black. With Ma, she had the freedom of being absolutely who she was because she gave herself permission. I wanted to honor her. I want to honor all the Black people that I portray.”

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