Viola Davis Reacts to Criticism of Her Michelle Obama Portrayal: It's 'Incredibly Hurtful'

"Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I'm not saying that to be nasty either," said Viola Davis, who currently plays Michelle Obama in Showtime's The First Lady

Viola Davis' portrayal of Michelle Obama in The First Lady has been subjected to a heap of criticism.

The 56-year-old Academy Award winner spoke to BBC News about the negative feedback she's received, saying that it is "incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work." But she also feels that criticism is an "occupational hazard" of acting.

"How do you move on from the hurt, from failure? But you have to," she said. "Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance."

Per chatter on Twitter, many who have tuned in to watch The First Lady — which premiered April 17 on Showtime — mocked the "exaggerated" ways in which Davis pursed her lips. Several people agreed with one user's sentiment that Obama, 58, "did not purse her lips THAT much" and that Davis "should [not] do that in every scene," calling it a "bad performance."

Another person even joked that Obama, 58, "press charges against" Davis after she "did her DIRTY."

Viola Davis as Michelle Obama in THE FIRST LADY

As for her opinion of such comments, Davis said: "Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I'm not saying that to be nasty either."

"They always feel like they're telling you something that you don't know," she continued. "Somehow that you're living a life that you're surrounded by people who lie to you and 'I'm going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth'. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you. But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that."

(L-R): Kelvin John Davis as Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, Kathleen Garrett as Laura Bush, Viola Davis as Michelle Obama and O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama in THE FIRST LADY, “That White House”. Photo credit: Jackson Lee Davis/SHOWTIME.
Jackson Lee Davis/SHOWTIME

Davis also argued that playing someone as known as Obama is "almost impossible" because "either you're doing too much or not enough."

Asked whether Obama, herself, has an opinion on the matter, Davis said: "I don't have any personal contact with Michelle Obama."

The new Showtime drama examines American leadership through the perspective of three iconic First Ladies. Alongside Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer also stars as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Recently, Davis — who is also a producer on the show — said portraying Obama brought "stress" her way.

"Everybody loves Michelle Obama," she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "They know what she sounds like, they know what she looks like. And I'm like, 'I don't want Michelle Obama calling me, cussing me out.'"

The First Lady airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

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