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Viola Davis Discusses Success of ‘The Woman King’: “Human Stories Are For Everyone”

Viola Davis discusses the success of 'The Woman King' despite concerns of a boycott....
Credit: Sony Pictures

Viola Davis is the star of the new hit film The Woman King, but before its release some were calling for a boycott. However, despite angry tweets, the film has debuted at no. 1 at the box office, with critics and audiences alike praising the film with a 94% and 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes respectively.

The film is a historical epic about the Agojie, an all-female warrior unit protecting the West African Dahomey Kingdom during the 1820s.

Davis and her husband a producing partner, Julius Tennon, discussed the film with Variety and they emphasised that the story was for everyone and not just for Black women.

“There was a sense that our stories aren’t universal and can’t reach the white man or woman or the Hispanic man or woman,” said Davis. “I feel human stories are for everyone, not just Black consumption.”

“It’s an undeniable, powerful story,” Davis added. “I think people have a tendency to say, we only represent a certain percentage of the box office. We know Black women. We know they’re going to bring people they work with, spouses and families, and come back five or six times during the weekend. We are in an industry that doesn’t see the power Black women have at the global box office.”

Why is the industry blind to this? Julius Tennon had a thought:

“There’s always a bit of fear of the unknown. Hollywood loves to have a formula in the way they market ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that but when you’re doing a film like this, we know that people of colour, particularly Black people, are hungry for this kind of content… we know how to reach these audiences that studios aren’t tracking.”

The hashtag #BoycottWomanKing appeared on Twitter before the film’s release with users complaining that The Woman King doesn’t address the Dahomey Kingdom’s involvement in slavery. Davis says that “most of the story is fictionalised. It has to be.”

Tennon expanded on this: “We are now what we call ‘edu-tainment.’ It’s history but we have to take license. We have to entertain people. If we just told a history lesson, which we very well could have, that would be a documentary. Unfortunately, people wouldn’t be in the theatres doing the same thing we saw this weekend. We didn’t want to shy away from the truth. The history is massive and there are truths on that that are there. If people want to learn more, they can investigate more.”

Will there be a sequel? Davis is open to the idea but joked that she “was already the oldest warrior on the battlefield. If we do a sequel, I’m hoping I still have teeth.”

The film has already been released in the U.S., but an Australian release is set for October 27.


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