Viola Davis Defends 'Bold Choices' in Her Portrayal of Michelle Obama: 'You're Doing Too Much or Not Enough'

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Viola Davis is speaking out about the criticism she's been facing recently. In an interview with the BBC’s Today program, the 56-year-old Oscar winner addressed recent critiques about her portrayal of former first lady Michelle Obama, calling them "incredibly hurtful."

Davis stars in the first season of Showtime's new scripted anthology series, The First Ladyalongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson, who star as Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt, respectively. O-T Fagbenle portrays former President Barack Obama.

The actress has specifically come under fire for the facial expressions and poses she holds while portraying the Harvard Law School grad. Still, Davis acknowledged that criticism was an "occupational hazard" of acting.

"How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?" she asked. "But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance."

She told BBC, "Critics absolutely serve no purpose. 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."

"But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that," she added. "Either you're doing too much or not enough."

Davis previously told ET that portraying Obama for the series was "absolutely terrifying." She said that the scariest aspect of portraying Obama was the idea that she was someone whom "everyone has ownership over."

"You’re terrified whenever you start a job because you are afraid you are going to be found out -- that’s big imposter syndrome. But with Michelle Obama, it’s like everyone has ownership over Michelle Obama," she explained. "I mean, her book came out and it was [on every] best-seller list, everyone knows what she looks like, what she sounds like, what her hair [is like], you know?"

The How to Get Away With Murder star shared that even more terrifying than the concept of portraying Obama was what the former first lady herself would think. 

"There’s a sort of sister bond there for me, you know, that girl code like, I gotta make the sister look good," she added. "It’s all those things that you don’t think about as an actor [because] it has nothing to do with acting. When you play someone, you don’t make any editorial comments about them, they are who they are, you don’t put it in any machine and water it down or make it reductive, so it was all the things that scare you."

The First Lady is available to watch on Showtime.

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