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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
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VIDEO: Viola Davis Talks Playing Ma Rainey and More on 60 MINUTES

The 60 Minutes profile airs Sunday, December 6 on the CBS Television Network. 

VIDEO: Viola Davis Talks Playing Ma Rainey and More on 60 MINUTES

Viola Davis says she didn't see herself playing Ma Rainey because she felt too young for the role of the seminal blues singer from the 1920s. The versatile actor - currently the youngest and only African American to achieve the "Triple Crown of Acting" - an Emmy, a Tony and an Oscar - speaks to Jon Wertheim about the role and her career for a 60 MINUTES profile to be broadcast Sunday, December 6 on the CBS Television Network.

Watch a clip below!

"Here's the thing about acting. It's a weird Peter Pan syndrome that happens. So, I still saw myself as that 19-yr.-old girl going, 'I can't play Ma Rainey. I'm too young,'" she says of the role of the singer, who died in 1939 at age 53. "You got to get a more formidable actress who's been out there for 40, 50 years, until I realize 'Viola, you're actually a little bit older than what Ma Rainey is.'"

The 55-yr-old Davis tells Wertheim what she saw in Ma Rainey. "She was a combination of a woman from her time period, which is right...smack dab in Jim Crow, feeling worthless, but, at the same time, knowing who she was deep inside." The film, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," was adapted from the August Wilson play and streams on Netflix later this month.

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who recently died of colon cancer, also stars in the film, his last. Reflecting on his performance, Davis says, "We were just watching a great artist absolutely give himself over to a role-- which is what you do. You give yourself. You sacrifice yourself."

Davis also discusses growing up in a close-knit family gripped by poverty in Central Falls, RI, studying her craft at New York's renowned Juilliard School, and the production company she and her husband, the actor Julius Tennon, founded. Tennon also appears in the profile.

Wertheim met Davis at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles where she played in the 1990s. The pandemic has kept the venue dark for nearly nine months. Davis tells Wertheim she worries about the performing arts. "I worry about the performing arts all the time, even before COVID. I know acting is not rocket science, I really do. But it's an art form and it has its place," Davis says. "We need people to feel. We need people to know that they're not alone. That's what the theatre does."
VIDEO: Viola Davis Talks Playing Ma Rainey and More on 60 MINUTES




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