When Viola Davis and Denzel Washington set the internet ablaze with the trailer release of the highly-anticipated film Fences, we knew we were in for a ride.

The veteran stars’ performances as Troy and Rose Maxson, in the big-screen adaption of August Wilson’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, are nothing short of riveting and have already earned them both Golden Globe nominations.

Davis and Washington also starred in Fences on Broadway in 2010 and won Tony Awards for their roles.

But it was August Wilson’s insistence on an African-American director — the right one — to tell the story on film that we might be able to credit with the perfect timing and moment of Fences (The Movie).

–Denzel Washington to direct, star in ‘Fences’ with Viola Davis

In Denzel Washington, he got both a star and a visionary who brought together a dream cast of actors, almost the entire original Broadway crew, to bring it to life.

So, how did they make it happen?

In an interview with theGrio, Fences star Viola Davis revealed what Washington told her before the filming that led to her calling the film “more powerful” than any version she’s done.

She also tells why she’s cares less about appearances and more about substance when she’s on screen — just one of many reasons she is a true superstar to us.


TG: When the ‘Fences’ trailer came out, it got millions of views within a week on theGrio. People [are] so blown away by the passion you bring to your roles. Where do you tap into that emotion? 

VD: August Wilson, for me, wrote about us. So if you read any of his plays, you know, you are gonna see yourself, your auntie, you’re gonna see your mother, you’re gonna see your father. He wrote about us. But within it, the themes are universal. About dreams, marriage, all of that.

What I tap into is my life. You know I am an artist, so as I move through it, I observe it. I take in and I use it for work in my life.

I think there are some actors out there who probably are more concerned with how they look. I’m more concerned with authenticity.

–What Viola Davis tells her 6-year-old daughter to boost her confidence

I feel that the greatest thing that we’re given as artists is a gift to heal. And a gift to make people feel less alone through our work.

So it’s great to see a narrative where you can recognize things that you’re going through. The courage to be able to be honest in the moment. And with Fences, as you know, it’s all about a marriage. It’s all about this man who infects everything that he goes through. And it was important for me to be authentic with that.

TG: What were the conversations you had with Denzel Washington about the power of bringing this to the big screen? It was a smash hit when you did it as a play — what do you think the film is going to bring?

VD: First of all, I think the film is going to be even more powerful than the play. Easily. Everyone who’s seen it has had a huge emotional reaction to it.

[Denzel] said two things. The number one thing he said was ‘Trust me.’ Trust for an actor with a director is huge. Trust that I’m gonna give you a note and it’s gonna release something in you and it’s gonna be good.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

‘It’s gonna look good. It’s gonna be good. Trust me.’

And the other thing that he told us is remember the love.

Because as you see the story unfold, the thing that makes it even more tragic is the fact that there’s so much love invested in this family, so then when you see the loss, it hits you in a whole different way.


Fences hits theaters December 25th. Read more from our interview with Viola Davis about and her work and on family work on theGrio‘s Entertainment section.