In a Hollywood Reporter roundtable with likely Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominees, Viola Davis talks about reviewers’ strangely stunted vocabularies when describing her performances:
THR: One critic said you brought dignity to that character with restraint. Do you agree?
Davis: (Smiles painfully.) I love and hate the word “dignity.” I feel it’s overused for black actresses, as with “sassy” and “soulful.” I can go on. The same adjectives are pulled out of a magic box. That’s who she is in the book. My job was to create her. So yes, she is a quiet character. People always migrate toward the flashy character. They say what they mean, they’re out there, you can see it in their behavior. The character that doesn’t speak a lot is usually in the background. One of my favorite roles I ever played was a serial killer, which didn’t get a good response, either. It was for television, Law & Order. I appreciated killing a whole family with a baseball bat. You know, sometimes one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
There’s more good stuff in there, including the name of the female fine arts photographer that helped Carey Mulligan get over her nudity anxiety.