Viola Davis on getting paid what she's worth: 'I expect to get the same filet mignon that white actresses get'

Kerry Justich
·2 min read

Viola Davis continues her call for equality within Hollywood while speaking to InStyle about knowing her worth as a Black woman in the industry and what it took to get there.

“Here’s my big thing, and people in Hollywood know this: I have great agents; I love them. I love my manager. I love my publicist. But I say this to them all the time, I say, ‘I want and I expect to get the same filet mignon that white actresses get. Cooked at the exact temperature,’” she told the magazine for its December 2020 issue. “‘You cannot throw me a bone with a really nice little piece of meat still on it and expect that’s good enough for me. I love my collard greens and all of that, and I know we were given the leftovers. I know how to cook that, but I want a filet mignon.’”

Viola Davis on knowing her worth in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)
Viola Davis on knowing her worth in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

The 55-year-old, who became the first Black actor to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting in 2017, is certainly one of the best in her field. However, she says that as a “woman and a woman of color” she long approached her work thinking that she was “just like everybody else.” Until she realized that she wasn’t.

“It’s only until you reach a certain point, and maybe you have a certain level of expectation, that you realize you are not like everyone else,” Davis said. “In Hollywood, actresses don’t share their salary with each other while they’re sitting around drinking a glass of wine. A huge part of that, I’ll say, is ego. Ego because you don’t want people to know that you make less than what they think you make. Another part of it is etiquette.”

The conversation around actors’ salaries came up during the Time’s Up movement, supported largely by women in Hollywood. It was then that Davis shared that people often refer to her as the “Black Meryl Streep,” although Davis is paid less.

“There should be solidarity with everyone. Solidarity with Caucasian women and women of color. [Actress] Michelle Williams, of course, put it beautifully. The differences in pay and the lack of access to opportunities are huge,” Davis shared. “I fully expect changes. I’m trying to lift my hopes up. Even if it takes a little bit of vodka. If we don’t move forward together, then we don’t move forward.”

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