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Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Jessica Lange, and a Roundtable of Other Acting Queens Talk ShopVideo description
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Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Jessica Lange, and a Roundtable of Other Acting Queens Talk Shop

Two weeks after premiering its stellar TV-themed Comedy Actress roundtable, featuring the likes of Lena Dunham, Gina Rodriguez, and Amy Schumer, among others, The Hollywood Reporter has stepped up its game yet again with the acting heavyweights they've assembled for the Drama Actress edition, in preparation for the 2015 Emmy Awards.

Who cares that -- yet again -- the interviewers seem barely interested in asking any actual questions about acting, a peculiarly recurring problem when it comes to the female roundtables, when you've got such thespian goddesses as Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honorable Woman) Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freakshow), and Ruth Wilson (The Affair) to make the standard but necessary conversations about being women of a certain age, a certain color, and a certain foreign status in Hollywood as fascinatingly addictive as their onscreen performances.

Davis, in particular, holds court while talking some serious truth about the the type-busting challenges of her radical role in ABC's Shonda Rhimes-produced Murder:

"There was absolutely no precedent for it. I had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualized role in TV or film. I'm a sexual woman, but nothing in my career has ever identified me as a sexualized woman. I was the prototype of the 'mommified' role. Then all of a sudden, this part came, and fear would be an understatement. When I saw myself for the first time in the pilot episode, I was mortified. I saw the fake eyelashes and, 'Are you kidding me? Who is going to believe this?' And then I thought: 'OK, this is your moment to not typecast yourself, to play a woman who is sexualized and do your investigative work to find out who this woman is and put a real woman on TV who's smack-dab in the midst of this pop fiction.'"

Watch Davis's full clip above and check out some of our other favorite takeaways. The full article can be read here.

Jessica Lange, on retirement:

"It's becoming more and more imminent. By next near I will have been doing this for 40 years, which seems like many lifetimes. I do think, 'It's been great, but now I'm done.' Maybe move on to something entirely different. My kids always tease me, 'You've been retiring since we've known you!' (Laughs.) It's true. But the thing about acting, it's so seductive. You get drawn into a role … it's like a love affair. There's something really alive about it, and you remember why you were doing it to begin with. It can still seduce you after 40 years, which is kind of amazing."


Lizzy Caplan:

"There have been many times I've realized I have no real education or skills in any other area. I have to make this work, or I'm on the street. I've talked myself out of it every time I've gotten close to the edge."


Maggie Gyllenhaal:

"I had a rape scene in The Honorable Woman where it was clearly written that she'd be saying, 'No, no, please, no,' right away. But I wanted her to be complicit and wanting it; the darkest, most painful sex, right up until the point it turned into rape. I wanted her to want something she knew she shouldn't want. I can sometimes tell when actors fought an ordinary approach to a scene, and I'm so glad they did because it tells a better story."


Taraji P. Henson:

"It also seems like you're all actually trained in the craft of acting. That's how I was trained. It's never been about the money for me. I mean, I went from being an Oscar nominee [for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button] to No. 10 on the call sheet. I've never once thought, 'I'm now part of some elite group of actors; I'm never going to do theater again or do an indie again.' If I fall in love with the role, I don't care if it's outside in the parking lot."


Ruth Wilson:

"For a long time, I did all these costumed, quiet, innocent women. Then I was offered a role on Luther — this psychotic, sexy, femme fatale character, totally at odds with what I'd done before. And it was exactly the right timing. I don't know why the BBC saw me in that role, but I'm glad they did. It is amazing now to be able to play and shift."


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