Viola Davis relished playing a character who finds herself in "dire circumstances" in 'Widows'.

Viola Davis

Viola Davis

The 53-year-old actress stars in the new Steve McQueen-directed drama, which tells the story of four women who unite to repay the debt left by their criminal husbands, and Viola has revealed why she found her role so appealing.

She told The Hollywood Reporter: "I think it's only when you're in dire circumstances that you see what you're made of. When you have it easy, you can definitely wear the mask of grins and lies.

"Change happens when you're forced into it, kicking and screaming. And these women are forced to take control of their lives."

McQueen previously revealed good fortune played a big part in making the new movie, which is inspired by Lynda La Plante's ground-breaking TV drama of the same name.

McQueen admitted he only pursued the project after a fortuitous meeting with the British screenwriter.

He recalled: "I met Lynda La Plante at Buckingham Palace, as you do, lining up to meet the Queen at an arts event - Lenny Henry and Angela Lansbury were there - and I asked her what happened to the movie rights to 'Widows'."

At the time, the rights belonged to Disney - but New Regency, the studio through which he made '12 Years A Slave', subsequently purchased the film.

McQueen subsequently set to work on a contemporary version of the show with an added touch of politics.

He explained: "I wanted to understand what makes a big city tick, as four women are organising a big heist with the clock ticking against them."