Viola Davis is not happy about the negative reviews she got for her portrayal of former First Lady Michelle Obama in the drama series “The First Lady.” The Oscar Award-winning actress spoke on the matter during an interview with the BBC, questioning why movie critics had to exist at all.
“Critics absolutely serve no purpose,” she said. “And I’m not saying that to be nasty, either. They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth.’ So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you.”
She said playing Mrs. Obama was “almost impossible” because of how recognized she is in popular culture. The 56-year-old actress insisted that “you’re doing too much or not enough.”
Davis also described the criticism as “incredibly hurtful.”
“How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?” she said of getting such bad reviews. “But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.”
“Ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices,” Davis concluded. “Win or fail, it is my duty to do that.”
“The First Lady” has a 43% critics rating and 44% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A reviewer from The Guardian pointed out how the show had “cringeworthy dialogue, scrambled pacing and parody-level performances” while Variety reviewer Caroline Framke said the cast members “struggle to bring their characters to believable life.”
“The writing is often clunky, obvious and filled with Big Picture Messaging, and too many of the supporting characters are one-note caricatures,” Chicago Sun-Times reporter Richard Roeper wrote.
Davis stars alongside Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. The actress was specifically targeted for the facial expressions she makes while depicting Obama, with viewers of “The First Lady” calling her overly exaggerated pursed lips “distracting,” per the LA Times.
“You’re a phenomenal actress. Just stop doing your mouth like that,” one fan tweeted. “It’s a good show so far tho. But please stop doing our First Lady like that with your lips.”
Another viewer had similar thoughts. “Michelle Obama did not purse her lips THAT much. What possessed Viola to think she should do that in every scene. I never thought I would see the day where Viola Davis gave a bad performance.”
“Dear Viola Davis, I won’t be watching #TheFirstLady, out of great respect to you, Michelle Obama, and #HTGAWM. Your exaggerated lip pursing may parodize the show. I strongly recommend subsequent episodes are urgently revised & you rely on your natural intuitive tendencies,” another person wrote.