Viola Davis has addressed recent criticism of her portrayal of Michelle Obama in Showtime’s anthology series, The First Lady.

The series, which is entirely directed by Susanne Bier, started airing on Showtime earlier this month. Following the stories of three First Ladies of the United States, the show has drawn criticism from both critics and audiences. In particular, some of Davis’ choices have raised questions among viewers, especially when it comes to her facial expressions. Davis, who has an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy to her name, has now responded to the criticism of her role in the show.

In an interview with BBC News, Davis said that it’s “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work,” although she admitted it’s an “occupational hazard” of the film and TV industry. "How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?" she continued. "But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.”

Explaining further, she suggested that critics offer little value. “Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I'm not saying that to be nasty either,” she said. "They always feel like they're telling you something that you don't know. Somehow that you're living a life that you're surrounded by people who lie to you and 'I'm going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth'. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you. ... But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that."

She went on to suggest that playing someone as famous and recognizable as Michelle Obama would prove to be “almost impossible,” and such a role is often met with a response the performer is “doing too much or not enough.” She was asked if she had heard what Michelle Obama thinks of her portrayal, and Davis replied, “I don’t have any personal contact with Michelle Obama.” 

The First Lady is currently airing on Showtime.