Viola Davis attends the West Coast Premiere of their produced play Paradise

Viola Davis Gets Slammed Over Performance As Michelle Obama In 'The First Lady'

Home / Entertainment / Viola Davis Gets Slammed Over Performance As Michelle Obama In 'The First Lady'

By Favour Adegoke on April 19, 2022 at 5:00 AM EDT

"The First Lady" is a series that depicts the experiences of three former US First Ladies recently premiered and is currently gaining a lot of attention, but for the wrong reasons. Many fans have applauded the storyline and quality, but many have also expressed issues with one actress's performance. 

In the show, popular actress Viola Davis depicts Michelle Obama, wife of former US president Barack Obama and while Davis is known for her stellar performances, fans are complaining about one thing she apparently did very wrong in her portrayal of Obama.

The major criticism fans are pointing out is with Davis' mouth pursing. An act she does in order to imitate the former First Lady's mannerisms. Fans say it was extremely exaggerated and negatively affected her performance. 

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Read on to learn more about what fans said about Davis's performance.

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Fans Criticized Viola Davis' Lip Pursing

Audiences of the show's first episode went on social media shortly after it premiered to express their confusion over a particular scene featuring 56-year-old Davis. In the scene, Michelle (Davis) speaks to her husband Barack (played by O-T Fagbenle), and her lips are pursed in an exaggerated manner.

The audience criticized the "How to Get Away With Murder" star's mouth purse one tweet read said, "Viola Davis might be going to hell idk" and another user tweeted "So no one told Viola to reduce on whatever she was doing to her mouth?"

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Fans Said The Lip Pursing And Movement Were Unnecessary

Many tweets poured in, applauding the episode but criticizing Davis's mouth purse. One Twitter user wrote, "Viola could've just acted normally and changed the tone of her voice without having to change what she got going on with her mouth." while another said, "I was staring dead into Viola's mouth the entire time #TheFirstLady."

Another viewer wrote, "This Thing Viola is doing with her mouth is totally unnecessary! I don't see Michelle when she does it , I just see teeth!."

Some suggested that it might be satire by tweeting, "I usually like Viola Davis as an actress, but why in the tarnation did she insist on doing this with her mouth? It makes it look like a parody,"

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One other similar tweet read, "I love viola davis but I cant take this First Lady thing seriously. The mouth thing looks like satire and she literally could've done without doing it the whole time. That's not how Michelle always looks or talks anyways."

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The Series Follows Three Former First Ladies

The First Lady follows the stories of three of the most popular wives of former US Presidents. The women come from three different decades and are the wives of Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Gerald Ford.

Michelle Pfeiffer plays Betty Ford, while Gillian Anderson plays Eleanor Roosevelt. During an interview with Vanity Fair at the premiere of the series, Davis revealed how she learnt to speak like Obama.

The "Fences" actress said that she studied Obama's language patterns extensively by listening to all her podcasts "over 100 times" and copied her body gestures and mannerisms by watching many of the attorney's videos. She also read her memoir, "Becoming," thoroughly.

Viola Davis Spoke Extensively With Michelle Obama

Viola Davis at The BAFTA Film Awards 2019

During the Vanity Fair interview, Davis also revealed that she consulted with Obama severally before they started filming. She said, "She (Obama) said to me, 'I'm not an angry person,' So what I really wanted to do with my performance was to protect her, to honor her, and not be the perception that black women are angry and hostile."

The "Suicide Squad" star also said, "Michelle Obama was the first black woman in the White House, and she was perceived to be angry, hostile, overly masculine, and not feminine enough."

"There is so much scrutiny that first ladies have to deal with," she continued, "Everyone has an opinion, from their clothes to the way they raise their children, and she was Black, so everything she did was emphasized."

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