One of a few new projects Viola Davis is developing via her recently-formed (with her husband) JuVee production company, first announced in March of this year, but I’ve yet to hear anything further about it… until today.
First a recap…
Viola Davis will tackle the life story of Barbara Jordan in a feature film that will be based on the 2000 biography Barbara Jordan: American Hero, written by Mary Beth Rogers.
Paris Barclay will direct from a script adapted by Emmy-nominated writer Paris Qualles (primarily a writer for TV).
A little about Barbara Jordan… she was the first African American to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction, the first black woman elected to Congress from the South, and the first to deliver the keynote address at a national party convention.
But, given how private a life she led, Jordan was considered something of a mystery, even to her close friends - friends who didn’t know about the illness that would eventually kill her at just 59 years old.
And while she never publicly discussed her sexual orientation (not that she had to), Jordan’s obituary mentioned her long-term (30-year) relationship with Nancy Earl, an educational psychologist.
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle posted on their website yesterday evening, Davis talked about the project (and other things) - specifically on what we can expect to see in the film:
"She was an American hero… I think that she was able to overcome a lot of insecurities in her life to fight for something bigger than herself. The movie that I’m working on is to show what a great political and statesperson that she was. But also because I’m an artist, I think it’s even more important to show the personal demons that she had to wrestle with to get where she got to in her life in the political arena, and I think that is what makes her a hero. Oftentimes, we do not see that side of black female life. A lot of times we see that part where we win, we overcome, we’re fabulous, but I don’t think we often see the struggle - how we got to that point. That’s what I want to show."
Some would probably argue the oppostie - that we tend to see more of the struggle, and not enough of the fabulous, when it comes to depictions of black female life on cinema screens.
But I understand the need for balance - to show a complete, 3-dimensional human being, warts and all; instead of hagiography."
— Tambay Obenson, “Viola Davis On What To Expect From Barbara Jordan Biopic + What Critics Of Black Actors Don’t Understand,” Shadow and Act 7/24/12