Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis & Emmy Contenders Talk Race, Sexism, Aging in Hollywood
Six Emmy contenders Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Lizzy Caplan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jessica Lange, and Ruth Wilson take the cover of The Hollywood Reporter‘s latest issue, hitting stands this week. They speak candidly during a roundtable about race, sexism, aging, nudity and typecasting.
Viola on what most appealed to her and scared her about playing the lead in a Shonda Rhimes drama (How To Get Away With Murder): There was absolutely no precedent for it. I had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualized role in TV or film. I’m a sexual woman, but nothing in my career has ever identified me as a sexualized woman. I was the prototype of the “mommified” role. Then all of a sudden, this part came, and fear would be an understatement. When I saw myself for the first time in the pilot episode, I was mortified. I saw the fake eyelashes and, “Are you kidding me? Who is going to believe this?” And then I thought: “OK, this is your moment to not typecast yourself, to play a woman who is sexualized and do your investigative work to find out who this woman is and put a real woman on TV who’s smack-dab in the midst of this pop fiction.
Maggie on a specific point in her career when she felt the bravest: I had a rape scene in The Honorable Woman where it was clearly written that she’d be saying, “No, no, please, no,” right away. But I wanted her to be complicit and wanting it; the darkest, most painful sex, right up until the point it turned into rape. I wanted her to want something she knew she shouldn’t want. I can sometimes tell when actors fought an ordinary approach to a scene, and I’m so glad they did because it tells a better story.
Lizzy on if it’s tough to do a lot of nudity on Masters of Sex: I was more afraid of doing nudity on [HBO’s] True Blood. It got easier after that, but I’m not ever 100 percent comfortable. There was a scene last season where I take my robe off, I’m naked and then transition into locked-eye [with Michael Sheen’s character], full-on masturbation from beginning to end. We have a female showrunner who considers herself a prude, so the sex scenes always move the story forward. But I remember being in my trailer before that scene and thinking for the first time since the show started: “I really don’t want to go out there and do this.”
Watch the video of the roundtable at HollywoodReporter.com. Pics below!