Viola Davis leads the way in a different kind of battle: one between the art of acting and the art of creating characters. As is the case with any great performance, acting is nothing without a character, the very vessel on which the actor takes on and carries forward their thoughts and feelings. The characters that Davis plays are rich with complex personalities and personalities that are a joy to watch. That she’s one of the best actors on TV is testament to how vital these roles are to her. That she’s a talented actress is an argument that I can not not accept is the most important of all.
In an article that appeared in The New Yorker titled “The Actor’s Notebook” (here’s an excerpt), Davis reveals how she approaches character building:
“My approach is simple: Get the job done, and let the parts flow: my actors tell me exactly what they need to do, and I listen to them. Usually they do that very well. In ‘Logan’s Run,’ I had my character grow up in Texas. In the film, they say I can’t hear them. But we worked it out at rehearsal, and, eventually, I did hear them.”
The part of Laura in “Logan” is one of Davis’ best-known. In the film, Laura wakes up in a hospital, disoriented and unsure whether her father is her husband or her fiancé, Logan. She has no idea why her friends and neighbors are dead. Her best friend, Ellie, is gone. And, yes, that’s Logan.
“Laura is the first woman [I’ve actually] played completely like a woman,” Davis tells the New Yorker. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time—I’ve always played the woman in a way that hasn’t been defined before.