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The Telegram
  • Viola Davis gets supernatural in 'Beautiful Creatures'

  • When Viola Davis steps into the character of Amma Trudeau in the supernatural teen romance movie “Beautiful Creatures,” she, along with, of course, the director and screenwriter, makes sure not to let ...
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  • When Viola Davis steps into the character of Amma Trudeau in the supernatural teen romance movie “Beautiful Creatures,” she, along with, of course, the director and screenwriter, makes sure not to let on exactly who Amma is or what she’s up to. There’s no doubt that she’s a longtime housekeeper for a Southern family, or that she’s the local librarian. But might there be another side to her? Something a little magical and mystical? Well, yeah, but it’s as much fun just watching Davis work as it is figuring out what her character is about. Since starting out doing TV guest spots in the mid-’90s (“NYPD Blue”), Davis worked her way up to recurring TV roles (“United States of Tara”), and feature films (“Nights in Rodanthe”). People really took notice with her Supporting Actress nomination for “Doubt” and “Best Actress” nomination for “The Help.” Davis, 47, her hair cut short, and all dolled up in a sleek magenta outfit, spoke in Los Angeles about career choices, a fondness for fantasy and awards.
    You’re working so much these days. What drew you to taking a part in an adaptation of a young adult book? I read all the young adult fantasy books as a way of kind of connecting with my nieces and nephews. I always wanted to be the one black woman in the “Harry Potter” movies. The thing that I loved about this story is that it deals with the past and the present and with this alternate universe. I love that because I always think what were we doing in the past. And the fact that Amma channels all these spirits made me go to a place in my imagination of who could she possibly be. And who were we back then.   Did you have much input as to what she would be like beyond what was on the page?   I want to say this very carefully. I don’t want it to be misinterpreted. Because they say the biggest lie is a truth told, but misunderstood. In the book, she’s a maid, and I didn’t want to be a maid, again. I wanted this African-American woman to be woven into the life of this family and this community without being in servitude to it. I felt if she were educated in any way, then let’s explore some different facets of who she could be and what her role could be in this family. I love that [writer-director] Richard LaGravenese did that, and I love the whole mysterious quality of her. As soon as you feel that she’s on the straight and narrow, this other element is introduced about her.   Have you always liked supernatural material?   Yeeesss! I read a lot of books when I was a kid. H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury. I watched “Land of the Lost,” “Lost in Space.” What’s great about an alternate universe is you get to play act, to use your imagination.   Your name was everywhere last year during awards season with the popularity of “The Help.” What are your feelings about that now?   It was a really important journey for me. I had spent so many years in insecurity. Maybe because the movie was so controversial and I had to find my voice in order to defend my choices, I finally kind of found out who I was, and I stopped apologizing for that. With awards season, what people don’t understand is that the day after, when everything goes away, a new crop of nominees comes up, and then another new crop of nominees. And you’ve gotta go back to work. Who are you after the red carpet is rolled up, and what kind of work are you gonna get? People get so caught up in that gold statue. But you have to keep everything in perspective, because the day after hits, and you have to go back to your life. You know, takin’ out the trash.   “Beautiful Creatures” opens on Feb. 14.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ed Symkus covers movies for GateHouse Media.
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