Viola Davis on How ‘The Woman King’ Highlights the Need for More Stories About Black Women: ‘We Want Great Material’ (Video)

TheWrap Screening Series: “As Black artists … we want material that’s going to challenge our artistry and our craft,” said the star

A movie like “The Woman King” was on Viola Davis’ wish list for a long time before it eventually made its way to the screen. 

Released in September, the groundbreaking action epic stars Davis as General Nanisca, the leader of an all-female group of warriors charged with protecting the Kingdom of Dahomey. The film is inspired by real events that took place in the mighty African state during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Oscar-winning actor, her co-star Thuso Mbedu and director Gina Prince-Bythewood sat down with TheWrap to discuss their individual journeys to “The Woman King” and the uphill battle they faced in getting it made. 

“It’s been on my radar to do a film where I can use my body as a part of creating a character, and then create this rich sort of emotional life and journey,” Davis told moderator Steve Pond. “And to film on the motherland, and to be a part of a movie with so many extraordinary artists.”

“The Woman King” broke new ground as a major studio film featuring a predominantly Black female cast in the historical action genre. However, Davis says it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the stories that still need to be told.

“The thing is, we are in a profession where a lot of things can stop you. Your sex can stop you, your age can stop you, your race can stop you,” she said. “All those things, because they become obstacles in getting stories made, and not just action movies.”

Davis rattled off a number of favorite films that have never been made from a Black perspective: “Clue,” “An Unmarried Woman,” “Looking For Mr. Goodbar” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” among them.

She sees “The Woman King” as part of a larger project to expand the parameters of Black storytelling.

“Our job as artists, as Black artists, is we want great material,” she continued. “We want complicated material. We want material that’s going to challenge our artistry and our craft. That’s what we want.”

Watch the full interview here.