“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” star Viola Davis masterfully transforms into the legendary musician in a way that’s both stunning and emotional. But that transformation doesn’t just happen in her performance — it also happened physically. And now she’s getting back to her former self thanks to a whole lot of hard work.
The Oscar winner put on a considerable amount of weight for the role, saying while promoting at the Toronto International Film Festival that she “got close to 200” pounds to perfect the role in the Netflix film, which premiered today on Netflix. In a Thursday tweet, Davis credited her trainer Gabriela McLain for helping her get back into shape healthily and safely after filming ended.
And, wow, that credit is well deserved.
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) December 18, 2020
On her Instagram, McLain — a celebrity trainer who has a history of working with Davis — shared some details about her process, as well as more photos. Just looking at them working out together is motivation in and of itself.
“Proper form helps you work out more efficiently so you can use your energy for the extra push rather than wasted movements,” McLain wrote. “It’s pretty simple. Better your form the better your results.”
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For Davis, it’s all part of the transformation that helped her create an accurate and genuine vision of the character. It was important that she created a version of Ma Rainey that not only satisfied her but honored the singer’s memory.
“I wanted to create a character on my own terms. I did not want to filter it through the white gaze or through any idea that people would have about someone who is larger, Black, a singer, a woman,” Davis told Entertainment Tonight in an interview. “Usually those characters are just big and funny. Big, Black and funny. I wanted more than that. I wanted autonomy.”