TheRoot.com, By Stephanie Holland, Posted September 19th 2022
‘I’ve never had a role like this before. It’s transformative,’ Davis said!
The Woman King trailer is a call to arms for Black women everywhere.
When Viola—as Nanisca, commander of the real-life Agojie warriors—said, “We fear no one. And we fear no pain. I offer you a choice, fight or we die,” I was looking around for my sword. Ok, sign me up. I’m ready to follow Viola Davis into battle.
Don’t look at me like I’m the only one.
Released Sept. 16, The Woman King stars Viola Davis as Nanisca, the leader of an army of women warriors defending the kingdom of Dahomey from white colonizers. The star-studded cast includes John Boyega as King Ghezo, Thuso Mbedu as Nawi, Lashana Lynch, Adrienne Warren, Sheila Atim, Masali Baduza and Angélique Kidjo.
The trailer features Nanisca convincing King Ghezo that they must fight back against the Europeans coming to take over Africa. She recruits women from across the land to join the king’s guard. In typical historical epic fashion, she gives a rousing, inspirational speech, but this time it hits differently, as everything she says feels extremely real and timely.
It’s worth noting that this is based on the true story of the Agojie, actual African warriors who defended the Kingdom of Dahomey, which is now Benin. These are the women that Black Panther’s Dora Milaje are based on.
To believably become Nanisca, the Oscar-winner found herself undergoing a hardcore training regime.
“We started intensely a few months before shooting—four hours a day, five days a week,” Davis told Vanity Fair. “Weight training, sprinting, martial arts and weaponry training for the machete.”
This role is the culmination of years of work for the Fences star. She knows what a privilege it is to find a character like this for a Black actress, so she never takes these opportunities for granted.
“I’ve never had a role like this before,” Davis said. “It’s transformative. And to be a producer on it, and to know that I had a hand in bringing it to fruition….There’s always a vision you have for your career, but there are very few roles as an actress of color. Dark skin with a wide nose and big lips. I’m just gonna continue to say it. Those stories are extraordinarily limited.”
The magnitude and importance of this story is not lost on the Tony-winner, and it’s not something she takes lightly.
“I knew what it would mean to us as Black people. Something that has never been done before. And what it would mean for Black women sitting in that movie theater. The responsibility is really high.”
If we can trust anyone with that responsibility, it’s Viola. Who else could be Amanda Waller, Michelle Obama and Nanisca all in the same year?
The Woman King is in theaters now.