Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Viola Davis is emotional, heartwarming, and motivational. Set on Winfrey’s Maui porch, in “Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event,” the women discussed Davis’s memoir “Finding Me,” where she bares her heart out and discusses her difficult childhood, her theatre journey, her film career, and finding happiness by acknowledging the difficulties that come along with it.
Viola took to the pen during the pandemic. She felt a sense of existential crisis sipping in. She had reached the epitome of fame with the popular series “How to Get Away with Murder?” and groundbreaking performances in films like “The Help (2011),” “Fences (2016),” and “Widows (2018),” to name a few. She had always imagined she would be happiest after all the awards and fame, but gradually realized that it was quite the opposite. She found imposters in her life in the form of friends, some of whom overstepped their boundaries as well. She felt like she was being commoditized, and there was a constant pressure of unseen responsibilities. From then on, she embarked on the journey of finding what home meant to her. She decided to go back to her roots, her purest self, and believed that by remembering and retelling her story, she would be able to define the true meaning of home.
Winfrey admits that she believed that she had lived in poverty until she read the memoir of Viola Davis. There were days in Viola’s childhood when her family did not have food to eat, there was a shortage of water, and their apartment was infested with rats. She grew up on Rhode Island, and in that cold and snow, there would be days when they spent their lives in complete misery. There is a particular instance that touches the heart. Viola mentioned that even though they knew the importance of washing their clothes, their circumstances were not permissible. The cold would leave the clothes wet, and not washing them would make them smelly. There was no better way to deal with the problem. She remembered how the face of her doll, made of hard plastic, was chewed on by the rats. They would cover their ears and heads at night, fearing the rats that dominated their space. It was not just the poverty that had impacted her life but also the physical violence she witnessed at her house between her parents. Though later on, she forgave her father, as she tried to understand him, and he too showed his affection towards her. Forgiving the man who showed violence was not easy, but that is something she learned with time.
There were people in her life who were the reason she found light at the end of the tunnel. She remembered her school vice principal, Ann Prosser, who, after knowing their situation, could not hold back her tears. She used to give her daughter’s beautiful clothes to Viola. Viola remarks in the interview that it is compassion and empathy that can kill shame, and that is what she learned from her interaction with Ann Prosser. Viola had always enjoyed acting, and she described her job as a way to show people their true selves. This is a brilliant way to define the responsibility of an actor. She wanted the people who were watching her to feel for the person they believed that the actor was playing and not treat it like another film or television character detached from the reality of the audience. These are moments that will make those watching the interview understand the profoundness of Viola’s words and actions.
Viola Davis finds immense joy in being the mother of her daughter, Genesis. Motherhood taught her to live for something bigger than herself. In raising her daughter, she feels that she has been able to heal herself, as it is only children whose love can be that pure. Viola now lives for her share of peace and joy; she wants to be happy. Even though happiness is a journey with its share of bad, she wants to walk that road and find her peace. With the calm background of Winfrey’s Maui home, the interview is simple in its format but impactful in its content. The journey of Viola Davis from a poor girl teased by men on the road calling her black and ugly to reaching the height of success and brilliance is truly inspiring. The memoir documents parts of her life that were unknown to most and had impacted Viola strongly. It is the hardship and complexity of her childhood situation that, in its way, taught her to be the woman she is today. This 48-minute Netflix special is a motivating watch, where the discussion transcends beyond superficiality and delves deep into finding the meaning of happiness, home, and life.
‘Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event’ is a 2022 Reality Talk-Show streaming on Netflix.