Why Viola Davis does not see Ma Rainey’s black backside character as a protagonist or antagonist
I don’t see her as a protagonist or an antagonist because I can’t. An actor doesn’t do that. It’s like having to portray the character exactly as they are. Whether you’re a protagonist or an antagonist, that’s for the audience, that’s a judgment. I have portrayed her as a woman who was literally born in a world that she doesn’t appreciate at all – that she doesn’t even recognize as a person, but she is a person who understands her worth. So she’s a woman who blasted a hole by 1927. She is a liberated woman. They are these people you don’t know where the hell they’re from, you know? It’s like where you were born And she was actually born in Columbus, Georgia. So I just saw her as a woman who knew her worth and wouldn’t admit it. It was not up for discussion. I know that [as Ma] I’m great at what I do, I know it makes you money, I should be called the mother of the blues. I influence all these other singers so you treat me like I deserve to be treated. And that’s it. That’s how I saw her. And of course other things that don’t apologize for their sexuality, certainly a sensitivity and a maternal instinct and all those things.