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Viola Davis and Julius Tennon Talk ‘Air’, Playing Michael Jordan’s Parents, JuVee Productions & More – SXSW 2023 Interview

If you haven’t seen Air yet, it’s definitely worth checking out. Directed by Ben Affleck, the film closed out this year’s SXSW festival and has been praised as one of the best films of the year (thus far).

One of the reasons behind its success is the performance of EGOT-winning actress Viola Davis. At the film’s red carpet event, Geeks of Color had the privilege of speaking with Davis and her on and off-screen husband, Julius Tennon, about their involvement in the project. 

 Air offers a captivating glimpse into the awe-inspiring partnership between an up-and-coming Michael Jordan and Nike’s burgeoning basketball division. This dynamic collaboration not only transformed the realm of sports but also ushered in a new era of contemporary culture with the iconic Air Jordan brand.

It’s never a bad time to give Davis her flowers. She is a multi-talented actress, producer, and writer who has won several prestigious awards. Davis has had an extensive career in film, television, and theater, with notable performances in films such as Doubt, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Woman King (now streaming on Netflix), and on stage in Fences, for which she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. 

In addition to her acting roles, Davis has served as a producer on projects like the television series How to Get Away with Murder. Her range as an actress and her commitment to her craft have made her a respected figure in the entertainment industry, and her Grammy win for Best Spoken Word Album in 2022 for the audiobook version of her memoir, Finding Me, is a testament to her exceptional talent.

Check out the interview with Viola Davis and Julius Tennon below:

To kick off the interview, I asked Tennon and Davis what it was like to play a married couple on screen since they are married in real life. Tennon said, “It’s a joy. It’s such a dream. Viola and I love working together, you know. So for us, it was just kind of easy to fall into these roles because we have that relationship. The Jordans have been married for decades, and we’ve been married for a few decades.”

Davis added, “And we’re here in Austin. We’re in Julius’s home!”

Tennon added, “I used to do theater and film and all kinds of stuff here. So it’s great to be back home and representing this movie. It’s perfect. Ben and Matt did such a great job.”

With Tennon and Davis’s natural chemistry and shared love for their craft, it’s no wonder their on-screen portrayal of the Jordans is so believable and moving.

Viola Davis

(Courtesy of Prime Video)

Jordan himself specifically requested Viola Davis to play his mother in the film, so I asked Davis what it was like to take on such an important role. She said, “It was a little pressure. If you’ve seen videos of his mom, she’s very formidable. Intelligence on another level.”

Although Jordan is not the first person to want Davis to play their mother, she explained why she knew Deloris would be a good fit: “Everyone wants me to be their mama. But then when I really saw what kind of mama she was, I was like, ‘Okay, then I have to play King Lear.'”

Viola Davis
(Courtesy of JuVee Productions)

JuVee Productions has a slate of upcoming projects, including G20, a story about Taylor Sutton, the first woman president who must use her knowledge and experience to defend her loved ones, fellow leaders, and the world when a crisis hits home. When I asked Tennon about his hopes for the future of the company, he said, “We want to continue to produce elevated, prestige content featuring people of color. That’s our goal – to elevate our content and get our stories told.”

With a focus on diverse storytelling and a commitment to excellence, JuVee Productions is poised to make a lasting impact on the entertainment industry.

Viola Davis
Courtesy of Euronews

As one of the greatest actors of all time, I couldn’t resist asking Davis for advice to give to up-and-coming actors. She said, “I would tell them to find a way to separate themselves from the pack. Tap into your uniqueness, and don’t be afraid of it. Don’t try to copy anyone else. I know that sounds like very basic advice, but I think we are in a profession where everyone’s trying to be like everyone else. And I think that’s a death knell.”

Viola Davis’s advice speaks to the importance of individuality in a highly competitive industry, encouraging actors to embrace their own distinct qualities and use them to stand out.

Air is now playing in theaters.

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