Viola Davis has addressed the criticism surrounding her portrayal of Michelle Obama in TV series The First Lady.

The Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress found herself in a rare position recently when she was criticised for her performance as the former U.S. First Lady in the series. Many viewers took to social media to complain about her overly pursed lips and called her pout and facial expressions distracting.

Addressing the criticism in an interview with BBC News, Davis insisted that it is "incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work".

She noted that criticism is an "occupational hazard" of acting and not every performance will be on par with her awards-worthy work.

"How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?" the 56-year-old asked. "But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance."

The Fences star went on to declare that "critics absolutely serve no purpose" and suggested their work gives them licence to be mean.

"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," she continued. "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."

The TV show also stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson as former First Ladies Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt, whose stories took place many years ago. In Davis' case, she admitted playing somebody so current and familiar as Obama was "almost impossible" and added, "Either you're doing too much or not enough."

Davis also said that she has no "personal contact" with Obama so doesn't know what she thinks of the show, which premiered on U.S. network Showtime earlier this month.