Viola Davis hopes more white women in Hollywood follow Jessica Chastain's lead, after Chastain helped Octavia Spencer negotiate five times her opening quote for her new movie.
"I don't want to tell anyone what to do, but I think Jessica Chastain did a really boss move with Octavia Spencer [on their upcoming movie, yet to be announced] by saying Octavia's got to be paid the same as her," Davis recently told Net-A-Porter. "She actually upped Octavia's quote for that movie because she took a salary cut."
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Spencer shared the story back in January on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's "Women Breaking Barriers" panel, explaining how, when Chastain learned there was a pay disparity between the two co-stars for a new movie, she said, "'Octavia, we're gonna get you paid on this film.'" Spencer added Chastain said "You and I are gonna be tied together" and ended up making "five times what we asked for" in the end.
"I love that woman because she's walking the walk and she's actually talking the talk," Spencer said tearfully. "[Chastain] said, 'Octavia, we're gonna get you paid on this film.' She said 'You and I are gonna be tied together. We're gonna be favored nations, and we're gonna make the same thing. You are going to make that amount.' Fast-forward to last week, we're making five times what we asked for."
"I think Caucasian women have to stand in solidarity with us, and they have to understand we are not in the same boat," Davis said. "Even a lot of female-driven events in Hollywood, like power luncheons -- which I've been to, and are awesome, by the way -- there will be 3,000 women in that room, and five of them are women of color. And it's by invite! So you're not even inviting us."
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The Oscar winner went on to say that Hollywood needs to open its mind when it comes to casting women of color as well.
"We don't always have to be slaves or in the 'hood or fighting the KKK," she said. "I could be in a romantic comedy. I could be in' Gone Girl' or 'Wild.' I could be seen the same way as Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore. I actually came from the same sort of background; I went to Juilliard, I've done Broadway, I've worked with the Steven Spielberg. I should be seen the same way. That's what I think is missing: imagination."
"When you look at a role as a director or producer that is not ethnically specific, can you consider an actor of color, to invest in that talent?" she added. "The problem is, if it's not an urban or civil rights drama, they don't see you in the story."
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Regarding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Davis is, of course, fully supportive, but was concerned black women aren't getting the same level of empathy.
"Recy Taylor came forward in 1944 when she was gang raped by six men in Alabama," Davis said. "Tarana Burke was the founder of the #MeToo movement in 2006. There are plenty of black women who have come forward. I don't think people feel we deserve the same empathy or investment. We are not as valued. If the story wasn't coming out of Hollywood, and the predator wasn't someone like [Harvey] Weinstein, I don't think it would have gotten the spotlight [either]."
According to Davis, she, too, has fallen victim to sexual misconduct -- and for her, started way before she got into Hollywood.
"Not only do I have my own story, I have my own stories," she said. "I am telling you, I have had men touch me in inappropriate ways throughout my childhood. I have had men follow me on any given day -- and I am saying during the day, at 1 o'clock in the afternoon -- and expose themselves to me. I remember one day, when I was 27, waiting at the bus stop in Rhode Island for my niece to get out of pre-school. I was probably there 25 minutes, and I am not lying because I counted, 26 cars drove by with men in them who solicited me, harassed me, yelled at me, verbally abused me. Some of these men had baby seats in the back."
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Davis said her message to those denouncing the #TimesUp movement would be the same message she received from a life coach she sat next to at a party one time.
"He kept saying, 'Viola, a lot of people feel disillusioned once they get everything they want because everybody fights for success. They get there and realize they forgot the next goal. And the next goal is significance.' That is what I would say to women who are denouncing the #TimesUp movement," she said. "What is your significance? What do you want to leave the world? If you ever have a daughter or niece or young girl who looks up to you, who wants to say, 'You know what? I remember when I was 3 and sexually assaulted.' You can either choose significance, or you can choose that soundbite that took 2 minutes to give a Twitter feed."