London: Actress Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon, who are appearing together in the new season of her hit show ‘How to Get Away with Murder’, have a joint mission to bring more diversity in Hollywood.
Hollywood remains as white and male-dominated as ever, and representation of race, gender, LGBT and disability has barely changed in the past 10 years, according to research by academics at the University of Southern California (USC). “The reason diversity is still an issue is that everyone is not ‘put to task’,” said Davis.
Stressing that it was a much bigger issue than casting and stories, she agreed with Tennon in saying that it was a ‘pipeline problem’. “If a writer, director, cinematographer, actor of colour is out there, they have the talent but haven’t had the opportunities. So, when the studios start putting together their movies, they go for who they know, who they’ve worked with… the hottest, buzziest, the one with the resume… and most of them are white.”
She added, “No one says anything, because why would you? To change is to risk losing money, changing your vision, being exposed. It’s a problem that needs to be tackled from the studio heads who give the greenlight vote to filmmakers who can simply envision a role differently, to producers who can give a budding, gifted cinematographer grip, writer of colour a chance, and finally to audiences to plop down money to see a film character differently.”
“It requires being awoke.”
Davis and Tennon, who married 14 years ago and have a seven-year-old daughter, Genesis, set up their multimedia company, JuVee Productions, in 2011 to try to tackle the problem from within. They wanted to create more suitable roles for Davis’s talent.
Tennon, 63, said, “We started it out for her career, for Viola to be more than this woman who turns a piece of baloney into a filet mignon. She was getting one or two scenes in a movie and some guest-star TV work, but after ‘Antwone Fisher’ (a 2002 film starring and directed by Denzel Washington), there were a lot of eyes on her.”