Viola Davis Biography & Facts
Viola Davis (born August 11, 1965) is an American actress. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the only African-American to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2017, and in 2020, The New York Times ranked her ninth on its list of the greatest actors of the 21st century.Davis began her career in Central Falls, Rhode Island, appearing in small theater productions. After graduating from the Juilliard School in 1993, she won an Obie Award in 1999 for her performance as Ruby McCollum in Everybody's Ruby. She played minor roles in several films and television series in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before earning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Tonya in the 2001 Broadway production of August Wilson's King Hedley II. Her film breakthrough came with her role as a troubled mother in the 2008 drama Doubt, for which she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Greater success came to Davis in the 2010s. She won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's play Fences. For starring as a 1960s housemaid in the comedy-drama The Help (2011), she won a Screen Actors Guild Award and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. From 2014 to 2020, she played lawyer Annalise Keating in the television drama series How to Get Away with Murder, for which became the first black actress to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015. In 2016, she reprised the role of Maxson in the film adaptation of Fences, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2020, she portrayed Ma Rainey in the biopic Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, for which she received a fourth Academy Award nomination, becoming the most-nominated black actress in Oscar history.
Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, are founders of a production company, JuVee Productions. Davis is also widely recognized for her advocacy and support of human rights and equal rights for women and women of color. In 2017, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2019, she became a L'Oréal Paris ambassador.
Early life and education
Viola Davis was born on August 11, 1965, in St. Matthews, South Carolina. She is the daughter of Mae Alice Davis (née Logan) and Dan Davis. She was born on her grandmother's farm on the Singleton Plantation. Her father was a horse trainer, and her mother was a maid, factory worker and homemaker. She is the second youngest of six children, having four sisters and a brother. Soon after she was born, her parents moved with Davis and two of her older siblings to Central Falls, Rhode Island, leaving her other siblings with her grandparents.Her mother was also an activist during the Civil Rights Movement. At age two, Davis was taken to jail with her mother after she was arrested during a civil rights protest. She has described herself as having "lived in abject poverty and dysfunction" during her childhood, recalling living in "rat-infested and condemned" apartments. Davis is a second cousin of actor Mike Colter, known for portraying the Marvel Comics character Luke Cage.Davis attended Central Falls High School, the alma mater to which she partially credits her love of stage acting with her involvement in the arts. As a teen, she was involved in the federal TRIO Upward Bound and TRIO Student Support Services programs. While enrolled at the Young People's School for the Performing Arts in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Davis's talent was recognized by a director at the program, Bernard Masterson.After graduating from high school, Davis studied at Rhode Island College, majoring in theater and participating in the National Student Exchange before graduating in 1988. Next, she attended the Juilliard School for four years, and was a member of the school's Drama Division "Group 22" (1989–93).
Early work and breakthrough on stage (1992–1999)
In 1992, Davis starred in her first professional stage role, an off Broadway production of William Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It as Denis alongside Elizabeth McGovern at the Delacorte Theatre. In 1996, Davis made her Broadway debut in the original Broadway production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars as the Vera, alongside Keith David. The play opened on Broadway on March 6 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She earned critical praise for her performance. That same year, Davis received her Screen Actors Guild card in 1996 for doing one day of work, playing a nurse who passes a vial of blood to future How to Get Away with Murder co-star Timothy Hutton in the film The Substance of Fire (1996). She was paid $518. Davis continued acting off Broadway in various productions, and appeared in bit parts on television including episodes of NYPD Blue (1996), and New York Undercover (1996). She also appeared in the HBO television military comedy film, The Pentagon Wars (1996) starring Kelsey Grammer, and Cary Elwes. In 1998, she played a small role in Steven Soderbergh's crime comedy film Out of Sight (1999).
Film breakthrough and further stage success (2000–2010)
In 2001, she returned to the Broadway stage in another play by August Wilson titled King Hedley II, portraying Tonya, a "35-year-old mother fighting eloquently for the right to abort a pregnancy." Her performance earned critical attention, and she received her first Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play and a Drama Desk Award. She won another Drama Desk Award for her work in a 2004 off-Broadway production of Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage.
Throughout the early 2000s Davis appeared in numerous films, including Soderbergh's Solaris and Traffic, as well as George Clooney's Syriana (2005), which Soderbergh produced. Hers was the uncredited voice of the parole board interrogator who questions Danny Ocean (Clooney) in the first scene in Ocean's Eleven (2001). She also gave brief performances in the film such as the romantic comedy Kate & Leopold (2001) and the drama Antwone Fisher (2002). She also played secondary roles in Todd Haynes' costume drama Far From Heaven (2002), starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid. Her television work includes a recurring role in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, starring roles in two short-lived series, Traveler and Century City, and a special guest appearance in a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode entitled "Badge".
In 2008, Davis played Mrs. Miller in the film adaptation of the Broadway play by John Patrick Shanley, Doubt, with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Though Davis had only one scene in the film, she remained a highlight of the film with noted film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times specifically praising her performance writing, "It lasts abo.... Discover the Viola Davis popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Viola Davis books.