By Corey Atad.

It took a lot of work for Viola Davis to become a fearsome warrior.

Speaking to People magazine, the 57-year-old Oscar-winner opened up about the intense training she went through to feel “like a bada**” starring in “The Woman King”.

“When I was a girl wanting to win the Miss Central Falls Recreation Contest — wanting to look good in a bikini, wanting to be thin and cute and delicate and pretty — I just wanted to be willowy and thin,” Davis said.


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“I was always muscular and thicker, and I felt like my femininity could not be created with this canvas. And then all of a sudden, with this role, my muscles, my arms, my thick legs, my heavy voice were perfect. I felt unapologetic about it. I celebrated it physically in every way,” she continued. “Sometimes you do a movie and then it’s over. And sometimes, you do a movie and it shifts you a little bit. You’re a little bit better for it. And that’s what it’s been like for me with the training.”

Gabriela Mclain, who was the trainer and nutritionist on the historical action epic also shared her approach to getting the cast in shape to play the legendary Dahomey Amazons.

“My goal was to pretty much make it natural, just as the woman would look if they were to go and fight because it’s based on true stories. I’m trying to stay authentic, even with the body,” she said. “There’s all kinds of enhancers you can take to get lean and ripped and all that, but I did not want them to look like Miss Olympia, I tried to stay authentic so they look like warriors.”

Along with Davis, Mclain also worked with co-stars Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and Adrienne Warren, with three hours per day of training, lasting about nine months.


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Training included strength training, weightlifting, sprinting, weapons practice and more.

“Before we started I actually did DNA testing on the main five that were signed under me, which was Viola, Thuso, Lashana, Sheila, and Adrienne. I did the DNA testing on all of them, which helped me pretty much figure out the best way to train, the best way to protect their muscles and protect their body because they’re all different,” Mclain said. “There’s no one plan fits all. Everybody needs to train in a different way.”

She also shared that she placed the actresses under a strict nutritional plan, which had then eating more than usual in order to bulk up properly.

“I did not want them to lose too much weight, I wanted them to gain muscle,” she explains. “So they were eating five meals a day, every three hours,” Mclain explained. “They had to drink one gallon of water a day and each of them had a different nutritional plan, which I designed.”

“The Woman King” will have its world premiere at TIFF next month, before hitting theatres Sept. 16.





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Ellen Bullock