Viola Davis Reveals Her Secret Acting Process: “My job is to create a human being”

Viola Davis Widows Casting
Viola Davis at the 89th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room held at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood, USA on February 26, 2017. (Tinseltown /

Viola Davis reveals her approach to acting.

Viola Davis received critical acclaim on screen for her acting on screen, to television, to the theater. Because of that acclaim, one may assume that acting comes easy to Davis, after all, she has all of the awards to prove it.

However, in a recent interview with NPR to promote her role in the movie Widows, Davis spoke about the challenges of performing, including how important collaboration is in acting.

Davis said, “It takes a chunk out of your soul. It should. I think if it’s not costing you anything you’re not doing it right. My job is to create a human being. My job is as an observer and a thief. That I look at life every day, people may be walking by someone every day on the train, on the streets, and not notice little details. As an artist, you notice everything. You notice how people look when they’re falling in love. You notice that little blink in someone’s eye when they’re thinking about what they’re going to eat. The time their parent died, to feeling like life is hopeless. And within two seconds — because that’s how we think as people. You notice those things. And what we do as artists is to create human beings so people can feel less alone. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Davis added, “The audience is a part of the collaboration process. I can’t be an actor in my room. I can’t. I need the director, I need the script, all of those artists working to create the whole. But the other part that I need is the audience to come locked and loaded with all their thoughts, with all their memories, and to be able to look at the person that I’m creating on the stage and see themselves. Not a fantasy of themselves, not an extension, but themselves. So that’s what I do. That’s what sort of turns me on about what I do. And it is the most awesome way to feel empathy for another human being — to literally sit with them and to see them in their mess and their beauty.”