Viola Davis always wanted her life “to matter”.
The “Woman King” star – who has daughter Genesis, 11, with husband Julius Tennon – used to think being an actress was her way of making her mark on the world, but she's grown to realise that “elevating” opportunities for people of colour, through her and her spouse's JuVee Productions is where she can make a real impact.
Speaking as she picked up the ‘Women In Motion’ award at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, she said: “As a little chocolate girl, that grew up in Central Falls, Rhode Island, in abject poverty, with a certain level of poverty, I always wanted my life to matter.
“I wanted to leave this earth with a big fat hole in it, and I felt the way to do that was to become an actress, but now that I’ve progressed in my career, what I’ve realised is that I want to elevate storytelling for people of colour.”
The 56-year-old star has always tried to “be the change” she wanted to see in Hollywood.
Speaking about the award, she said: “It means an acknowledgement of my legacy, which is what I want to shift the narrative of women of colour to. It’s no longer acceptable for us to be defined by men, defined by any other structure other than ourselves, and it became obvious to me as I was progressing in my career that I had to be the change that I wanted to see, and that why we started this.
“I want to see black women for the beautiful complicated beings that they are.”
Viola's receipt of the award came a few days after she revealed that a director, who she'd known for more than a decade, once mistakenly called her by his maid's name.
She said: “I had a director who did that to me. He said: ‘Louise!’ I knew him for 10 years and he called me Louise, and I find out that it’s because his maid’s name is Louise.
“I was maybe around 30 at the time, so it was quite a while ago. But what you have to realise is that those micro-aggressions happen all the time.”