In the fourth episode of How to Get Away with Murder, Annalise (Viola Davis) takes off her wig and makeup before confronting her husband. It’s a scene that quickly became the show’s stand-out moment, one that showcased Annalise taking off her metaphorical armor—and one that the actress says was her idea.
“I’m claiming it,” Davis said in a new interview with Essence. “I’m a woman. I like to see women on TV. I like to see real women on TV. That for me is what’s inspiring and that for me is exciting. When I see an archetype of womanhood on TV, it depresses me.”
Davis went on to say that constantly being fully made-up on the show would make her seem like a Barbie, something that’s “not human.” “Human is, ‘I have to take this hair off at night,’ she said. “African-American women, we wear a lot of wigs. We take our makeup off. We don’t walk great in shoes. We’re not necessarily likeable or always a size two. Some of us have deep voices and then you’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Davis recently won a SAG Award for her role on the ABC show and made a point to thank the How to Get Away With Murder “for thinking a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old dark-skinned African-American woman who looks like me.” That statement inspired applause from the audience, and the speech as a whole was considered one of the evening’s strongest.
“Part of [the speech] was off of the cuff but part of it I have to say I thought about,” Davis told Essence. “I did think about some of it because I just wanted to show that with actors, everything starts with the material. You can’t shine if you have two lines in the background as a bus driver. You can only shine if you’re included in the narrative and narratives start when you put pen to paper and you use your imagination.”
Read the entire interview over at the Essence website.