Look… even a heavy hitter like Viola Davis can miss every once in a while.
There’s no denying that the Oscar winner is one of our most respected, most talented stars, but her latest role in The First Lady came with a lot of expectations. Playing a real person is always more difficult, but representing a present day figure whom the audience is very familiar with, like Michelle Obama, only increases the pressure.
The first episode premiered on Sunday, and viewers noticed a particular mannerism that the actress relied on in her portrayal of Mrs. Obama that, well, raised some eyebrows. It’s a puckered-lip face that some fans think turned the first Black First Lady into a caricature. (A specific clip circulating, in which Michelle calls Barack Obama racial slurs to make a point, didn’t help matters.)
Over on Twitter, users criticized:
“Michelle Obama did not purse her lips THAT much. What possessed Viola to think she should do that in every scene. I never thought I would see the day where Viola Davis gave a bad performance.”
“Michelle has an underbite that Viola is playing as a pucker & it’s so overdone. I don’t think anyone thinks about Michelle’s lips when they think of her. Plus the energy is all wrong. MO always comes across smooth not panicky VD is doing. It’s a shockingly bad turn from an icon.”
“Did they do no test screenings? I know Viola is one of our greatest thespians but somebody should have noticed this didn’t look right. Some people are so unique they require an actor that actually looks like them to pull it off. #TheFirstLady”
Some fans even thought the role would spark a feud between the two women:
“I love viola but she did michelle dirty ”
“Michelle must’ve pissed Viola off before this because ain’t no way she’s doin this seriously ”
“If I were Michelle Obama and ran into Viola Davis at an event, I wouldn’t even speak”
To make matters worse, the How to Get Away With Murder alum actually spoke about her fear of getting Michelle wrong and possibly offending her in an interview with Vanity Fair. She said:
“There’s a lot of fear that I messed up my portrayal of Michelle Obama. She’s an icon. Everyone knows what she looks like and what she sounds like, so I am absolutely terrified. But I’m mostly terrified about what she will think. I don’t want to insult her and have her calling me. I gotta make the sister look good. I just hope that it lands with her.”
No word yet on whether it landed with the First Lady, but it definitely didn’t land so well with the audience! Still, the venerated actress had her defenders:
“Viola is forever gonna be the best actress of all time .. i don’t care how many times she pokes her lips out like that.”
“Viola Davis does one questionable role and people acting like she’s not a good actor ”
“Viola Davis slander will not be tolerated. She is and will always be that girl”
Even so, there were way more people poking fun at the portrayal, and that face pretty much instantly became a meme. You’ll have to watch the show for yourself to decide whether she captured Michelle Obama correctly, but we all know that it just takes one errant screenshot to birth a tidal wave of memes!
Ch-ch-check out some more of them (below):
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