Viola Davis on Returning to ‘Fences’: “It was a chance and an opportunity to fix some things I never got right on stage”

Actress Viola Davis

“You know when you’re not getting it right, you know when you’re coasting.” – Viola Davis

While star/director Denzel Washington is getting most of the buzz for Fences, the film adaptation of August Wilson’s 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, he’s not the only castmember reprising his role from the 2010 Broadway production. Viola Davis, who starred as Rose, the long-suffering wife to Washington’s Troy. Like Washington, Davis won a Tony Award for her role in the play and is reprising her role in the film. In an interview with IndieWire, Davis explains what’s different about playing the role in the film as opposed to the play and why she was able to “fix” a scene she never felt confident in six years ago.

However, Davis did not want to play the role as she did on stage six years ago. She explains, “I didn’t want to do it by rote. I felt like I already knew it and I felt like that was a trap. There were times I would keep repeating a line and I would emphasize different words, just to wake me up.”

The film also gave Davis the opportunity to “fix” a scene with her character’s son Cory that she never felt satisfied with on stage. She reveals, “It was a chance and an opportunity to fix some things I never got right on stage, and that was the last piece with Cory. I never got it on stage. I mean, literally, there was one day, for hours, we went through the scene over and over again. I said, ‘At some point, I’m gonna get it. I went to Julliard. I’m gonna get it.’ You know when you’re not getting it right, you know when you’re coasting. Every time I would get to that scene, every single night, I would want it to be over. That was my internal monologue.”

Davis believes that she didn’t understand the scene fully in 2010 because she was not yet a mother (she adopted a newborn in 2011). She continues, “To be honest with you, one of the reasons why I didn’t get it is because I said, ‘Okay, she did all of this because she wanted this baby? Really? She didn’t want like a great job at a bank? And then I became a mother. And then everything changed. My heart changed, your whole being changes. All of a sudden, I got it. Never got it. Until I did the movie.”

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