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Viola Davis's comments about being called Hollywood's 'Black Meryl Streep' but getting unequal pay resurface: 'Give me what I'm worth'

Amid nationwide protests over racial inequality, an interview with Viola Davis talking about being called a “Black Meryl Streep” — while not getting the same paychecks or career opportunities — has resurfaced.

Over the last few days, people — including celebrities like Gabrielle Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade — have been sharing the 45-second clip of Davis’s 30-minute interview with Tina Brown at the Women of the World event in 2018. In it, she talked about having the same acting education, career path and awards as some of Hollywood’s biggest actresses, but being “nowhere near them” in many ways.

“I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys, I've done Broadway, I've done off-Broadway, I've done TV, I've done film, I've done all of it,” Davis said. “I have a career that's probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They all came out of Yale, they came out of Juilliard, they came out of NYU. They had the same path as me, and yet I am nowhere near them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it.”

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SUNDAY TODAY WITH WILLIE GEIST -- Pictured: (l-r) Viola Davis on May 5, 2019 -- (Photo by: Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 25: (L-R) Dolores Grant, actress Viola Davis, Annabella Grant and Dianne Davis-Wright attend "A Touch Of Sugar" New York screening at The Roxy Cinema on April 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 24: Viola Davis visits "Extra" at Times Square on April 24, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 25: Actress Viola Davis attends "A Touch of Sugar" New York screening at The Roxy Cinema on April 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Viola Davis speaks onstage at the 50th NAACP Image Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 30, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/02/10: Viola Davis and Julius Tennon at the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

PARK CITY, UTAH - FEBRUARY 01: Viola Davis attends "Troop Zero" Premiere during 2019 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on February 01, 2019 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! - "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EST and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Tuesday, January 29, included Viola Davis ("How to Get Away with Murder"), Charles P. Pierce ("Politics with Charles P. Pierce"), and musical guest Cypress Hill. (Randy Holmes via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS

SANTA MONICA, CA - JANUARY 13: Viola Davis walks onstage during the 24th annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 13, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards)

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - "Where Are Your Parents?" - Annalise gathers everyone together for the holidays while she wrestles over a difficult decision about her future, and the investigation into Miller's murder starts to widen on "How to Get Away with Murder," airing THURSDAY, FEB. 14 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth/ABC via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - "Be the Martyr" - Nate is on a mission to prove he was right about the culprit in his father's murder, while Bonnie begins to doubt herself; and Annalise turns the tables in the courtroom, on "How To Get Away with Murder," airing THURSDAY, JAN. 31 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Gilles Mingasson via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 05: Viola Davis attends The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women In Entertainment at Milk Studios on December 05, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05: Viola Davis accepts the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award onstage during The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women In Entertainment at Milk Studios on December 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter )

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Viola Davis attends the gala screening of "Widows" during AFI FEST 2018 at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 13: Actress Viola Davis attends the discussion of the film 'Widows' at 92nd Street Y on November 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Actress Viola Davis visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Rockefeller Center on November 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for NBC)

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08: Viola Davis attends the premiere of 'Widows' during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage)

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08: SEPTEMBER 08: Viola Davis attends the premiere of 'Widows' during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Executive producer Viola Davis speaks onstage for 'The Last Defense' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Actor Viola Davis attends 'The Last Defense' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Julius Tennon and Viola Davis are seen on April 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by JNI/Star Max/GC Images)

Actor Viola Davis speaks onstage at the 2018 Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center on April 12, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Viola Davis arrives at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Viola Davis arrives at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Actor Viola Davis speaks onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 02: Viola Davis arrives at the 11th Annual Celebration Of The 2018 Female Oscar Nominees Presented By Women In Film at Crustacean on March 2, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 02: Viola Davis attends Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party presented by Max Mara and Lancome with additional support from Crustacean Beverly Hills, Johnnie Walker, Stella Artois and Cambria at Crustacean Beverly Hills on March 2, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Women in Film)

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - 'Nobody Else Is Dying' - Annalise and her inner circle deal with the aftermath of a suspicious death that culminates with a shocking arrest. Meanwhile, a new development involving one of their own changes everything, on the season finale of 'How to Get Away with Murder,' THURSDAY, MARCH 15 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 20: Actress Viola Davis speaks during the Women's March Los Angeles 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - 'Lahey v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania' - As Annalise's class-action case hangs in the balance, a meeting with the esteemed Washington D.C. fixer, Olivia Pope, proves to be crucial in getting the opportunity to argue her case in the nation's highest court. Meanwhile, Bonnie discovers concerning information pertaining to Simon that threatens to expose what really happened during night he was shot, on a special, TGIT Crossover Event episode of 'How to Get Away with Murder,' THURSDAY, MARCH 1 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth/ABC via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Viola Davis arrives at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Actress Viola Davis arrives at 2018 American Rescue Dog Show on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)

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The Academy Award winner, who attended Juilliard, continued, “But I have to get on that phone and people say, ‘You're a Black Meryl Streep. There is no one like you.’ OK, then if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth. You give me what I’m worth.”

The How to Get Away With Murder star’s interview was a wide-ranging one, about the hot topic that year — the #MeToo movement — and also gender pay disparity. But she made the point that while women in Hollywood were being paid less than men, Black women were being paid much less than their white peers.

“We won’t talk about gender inequality of pay,” she said, “because a lot of the women who stepped — and I stand in solidarity with them, OK — what they’re getting paid, which is half of what a man is getting paid, well, we getting probably a tenth of what a caucasian woman gets and I’m number one on the call sheet. Then I have to go in and I have to hustle for my worth. That’s what I feel like I’m doing. Listen, I have more than a 30-year professional career.”

Davis said during the interview — which made headlines at the time — that the demand for equality goes beyond paychecks. She wanted the roles of complicated women — not the best friend, “the third girl from the left” and so on.

She also called out how young white actresses — citing Shailene Woodley — saying she was talented and “fabulous,” but landed some 37 magazine covers in one year while “some actress of color whose the same level of talent and everything who may have gotten four. And there is a sense in our culture that we have to be happy with that.”

Davis, who is known for giving powerful speeches (usually while accepting her many awards), vowed that she would no longer “hustle for [her] worth” in the business.

For the record, Davis is close friends with Streep, working with her in 2008’s Doubt. And not just awards show friends — they text and talk with Davis saying a quality she loves in Streep is that, “I always feel like she sees me.” In 2017, Streep publicly heaped praise on Davis in an essay for Time magazine’s influential people list, saying Davis "embodies for all women, but especially for women of color, the high-wire rewards of hard work and a dream, risk and faith."

Along the same lines as Davis’ interview being recirculated, an old interview with Killing Eve star Sandra Oh has also gone viral too. It is from the early 2000s — during her time on Arli$$, but before she really rocketed to fame on Grey’s Anatomy — and she talked about racism against Asians in Hollywood. She told interviewer Keith Morrison, “Some people would say we’re not good looking” or that a white woman should be in the lead. Similarly, she said, white people were picked over people of color to produce and write.

“Oh come on,” Morrison replied to Oh. He then seemingly joked about “middle age white guys” running things, while putting his arms up and smiling obviously as one.

Oh went on to talk not just about racial inequality, but gender too.

Like Davis, Oh has continued to be a prominent voice about racial inequality through the years, though some of what they’ve said, like these clips, took some time to really hit home.

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