How Viola Davis shaped her powerful 'Suicide Squad' role

By Lindsey Bahr
AP Film Writer
Posted8/7/2016 7:16 AM
  • Viola Davis as Amanda Waller in "Suicide Squad."

    Viola Davis as Amanda Waller in "Suicide Squad."

  • Viola Davis attends the world premiere of "Suicide Squad" in New York on Monday.

    Viola Davis attends the world premiere of "Suicide Squad" in New York on Monday. Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- When Viola Davis started looking into the role of Amanda Waller, the shadowy government agent who assembles the so-called Suicide Squad in this summer's latest blockbuster, she noticed there were two different versions of the character in the comics.

One looked like a vixen -- a sex symbol bursting out of her tiny suit. Davis noted her "Rihanna-like razor cut" and smoking figure. The other? A far sturdier looking woman with "a 'fro and some pearls."

For Davis, it was no contest. She immediately reached out to director David Ayer to discuss.

"I sent him an email and said, 'Now David, I don't know what you're thinking about doing but I'm telling you right now that the Amanda with the 'fro is far more compelling to me," Davis said. "He wrote back, he said 'I'm all about the fro. I'm all over that.'"

It wasn't just aesthetics that informed Davis' preference. She liked that this version was from Chicago's notoriously dangerous Cabrini-Green housing projects, and was a mother as well.

"She seemed like a real 3-dimensional kind of character in this world," Davis said. "She was far more appealing to me."

Ayer has talked about how the idea of Amanda Waller is what drew him to "Suicide Squad" in the first place.

"You have this government black ops run by a government official who is just as capable and ruthless as any supervillain," Ayer said. "(Amanda) has to be this apex predator in order to manage these very capable, scary people."

For her part, Davis just thought it would be fun.

"It's fantastical," she said. "It's the one genre that reminds me of why I wanted to be an actor which is I just thought it was fun, you know? It was fun to play act. To get out of your world."

The movie, out Friday, has been largely derided by critics but Davis' performance is one of the few bright spots for many.

"She's incredible," Ayer said. "She could read the phone book and it's going to be amazing."

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