Viola Davis’ portrayal of Michelle Obama has sparked some mixed reactions online, but Davis is taking the criticism in stride.
The Oscar winner, 56, responded to some negative social media reviews of the way she played Obama in Showtime’s “The First Lady.”
In an interview with BBC News, she said it is “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work.”
She also said she knows criticism is an “occupational hazard” and added that you “have to” move on from the pain of being critiqued.
“Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance,” she said.
Some people on Twitter have been criticizing the way Davis channeled the former first lady’s facial mannerisms.
“I imagine Viola Davis watched a lot of video footage of Michelle Obama speaking,” one user tweeted. “Where she got the idea to do the weird, exaggerated pursed lip thing is beyond me. It’s distracting and unnecessary.”
Another Twitter user called her performance an “abomination,” and another person tweeted that Davis “must do better.”
Davis opened up about how she weathers harsh criticism, explaining that she doesn’t give critics the power to influence how she approaches her work.
“Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either,” she said. “They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth.' So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you.
“But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices,” she continued. “Win or fail it is my duty to do that.”
She also said that portraying an iconic figure like Obama was “almost impossible” because “either you’re doing too much or not enough.”
Davis added that she’s had no personal interactions with Obama, 58, who has not reacted publicly to Davis’ portrayal.
While not all the social media reactions to “The First Lady” were positive, many people chimed in with words of support for Davis and her performance.
“I think Viola Davis is an amazing First Lady Obama,” one person tweeted.
“Viola Davis could read a telephone book and I would be riveted. She’s amazing,” another user wrote.
“Viola davis is so talented, vibrant, and respected," another person tweeted. "please don’t ever get it confused— there will only ever be ONE viola davis and she is so loved."
“The First Lady” follows the stories of two iconic first ladies in addition to Obama: Betty Ford, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and Eleanor Roosevelt, portrayed by Gillian Anderson.