When they go low, Viola Davis’ fans go high and defend her Michelle Obama portrayal
Many people are huge fans of Viola Davis. Alas, some people are not huge fans of what Viola Davis does with her face in her new portrayal of Michelle Obama.
We’re talking big-time lip-pursing, verging on repeated “duck face.”
Even so, Black Twitter was coming to the defense of the Oscar winner Monday when a shower of incredulous tweets emerged after “The First Lady” premiered on Sunday.
Davis plays the former FLOTUS in Showtime’s new miniseries, which also stars Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. The network bills the 10-episode show as a “revelatory reframing of American leadership through the lens of the First Ladies, delving deep into their personal and political lives.”
Viola Davis stars as blues legend Ma Rainey opposite Chadwick Boseman in the Netflix adaptation of August Wilson’s celebrated play.
Some people on social media billed it rather differently.
“Viola Davis’s lips when the director finally yelled over the speaker ‘IT’S A WRAP,’” user @Abby_Phillip wrote, including myriad emojis in a caption for a photo of an exhausted Popeyes worker hanging her head down as she rests on a bench.
“You’re a phenomenal actress. Just stop doing your mouth like that,” user @MzLaMica tweeted. “It’s a good show so far tho. But please stop doing our First Lady like that with your lips.”
Twitter user @augustsrain got fairly serious, writing, “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,” wrote @DrJokeAnderson.
Viola Davis, who earned her fourth nod for ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ has made history as the Black actress with the most Academy Award nominations ever.
Then defense of Davis swelled.
User @MessyBessy34 urged some restraint Monday morning, tweeting, “Michelle Obama appears to have an anterior open bite that Viola Davis is trying to replicate in her performance along with how she purses her lips. Both women are beyond gorgeous, brilliant, and amazing so leave them alone. Please and thank you.”
User @effoff1988 came at it differently, writing, “Dear Twitter, Please keep your hyperbolic Viola Davis slander to yourself. Yes, her performance in #TheFirstLady is not her best. Big. F—. Whoop. Happens to the best of them. And make no mistake about it she is and forever will be one of the best of them.”
And @truthbetold_kam tweeted plainly, “We must protect Viola Davis. We cannot allow another Black woman to be attacked by social media. Also, her portrayal of Michelle Obama is hilarious. I love both ladies.”
Meanwhile, Twitter user @MissZindzi predicted the future between the two famous women, writing Monday, “If I were Michelle Obama and ran into Viola Davis at an event, I wouldn’t even speak.”
For those who haven’t seen the show, here’s a trailer filled with examples of Davis’ lip-pursing performance:
And when an overall trailer for the series dropped a couple of months ago on YouTube, commenters were more forgiving.
“Viola did NOT have to go this hard at embodying Michelle, but she did. . .and I’m here for EVERY TIGHT LIP PURSING FILLED MOMENT,” commenter William Johnson wrote.
“Viola is such a great actress she doesn’t have to look a thing like the person she is playing. She could play a parakeet and just walk in to set on her friday jeans and I’d forget it was her. I’d believe it was the parakeet the entire time,” commenter no mayo wrote. “She really is the heart and soul of acting, and a magnificently wonderful person to boot.”
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.