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Viola Davis –

Davis in Disturbia.

About Viola Davis (1965 – )

Davis was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, at her grandparents’ house on the Singleton Plantation, as were her five siblings. The daughter of Mary Alice (Logan) and Dan Davis, she is the second youngest of six children. Her father was a horse trainer and her mother was a maid, factory worker, and homemaker, as well as a civil rights activist. Her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, with two-month-old Viola and two of her sisters, leaving her older sister and brother with the grandparents. Davis has described herself as having "lived in abject poverty and dysfunction" during her childhood.

Davis partially credits her love of stage acting with her involvement in the arts at her alma mater, Central Falls High School. Davis majored in theatre at Rhode Island College, graduating in 1988; in 2002 she received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from the college. She was involved in the federal TRIO Upward Bound and TRIO Student Support Services programs. While Davis was a teenager, her talent was recognized by Bernard Masterson when she entered the program at the Young People's School for the Performing Arts in West Warwick, Rhode Island while he was the director.

She also attended the Juilliard School for four years, as a member of the Drama Division's Group 22 (1989–1993).

Viola Davis received her Screen Actors Guild card in 1996 for doing one day of work as a nurse who passes a vial of blood to Timothy Hutton in the film The Substance of Fire. She was paid $528.

In 2001, she won the Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for her portrayal of Tonya in King Hedley II, a "35-year-old mother fighting eloquently for the right to abort a pregnancy." She has also won another Drama Desk Award for her work in a 2004 off-Broadway production of Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage.

Davis appeared in numerous films, including three films directed by Steven Soderbergh – Out of Sight, Solaris and Traffic, as well as Syriana, which Soderbergh produced. Viola was also the uncredited voice of the parole board interrogator who questions Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in the first scene in Ocean's Eleven. She also gave brief performances in the films Kate & Leopold and Antwone Fisher. 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 to the Broadway play Doubt, with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Though Davis had only one scene in the film, she was nominated for several awards for her performance, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

On June 30, 2009, Davis was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On June 13, 2010, Davis won her second Tony Award for her role as Rose Maxson in a revival of August Wilson's Fences. She is the second African-American woman to win the award, after Phylicia Rashad.

Davis played the role of Dr. Minerva in It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010), a coming-of-age film written and directed by Anna Boden with Ryan Fleck, adapted from the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini. In August 2011, Davis played the role of Aibileen Clark in the screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help, directed by Tate Taylor. For her performance, Davis garnered great critical acclaim, and eventually received two Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as her second Academy Award nomination, which she ultimately lost to Meryl Streep. She also received Golden Globe Award and BAFTA nominations for the same performance.

In 2012, Time magazine listed Davis as one of the most influential people in the world. Also in 2012, Glamour magazine named Davis Glamour's Film Actress of the year. On June 12, 2012, Davis was presented with the Women in Film's Crystal Award by her friend and Oscar rival that year Meryl Streep. On June 25, 2012, The Walk of Fame Committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that Davis was part of the new group of entertainment professionals who have been selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.

Davis reunited with The Help director Tate Taylor in Get on Up, a biopic of James Brown, playing Brown's mother. Her daughter Genesis also appeared in the movie.

In February 2014, Davis was cast in Peter Nowalk's pilot How to Get Away with Murder (executive produced by Shonda Rhimes for her ShondaLand production company) as the lead character. It began as a series in September 2014. On September 20, 2015, she became the first African-American to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Davis appeared in Blackhat (2015), a Michael Mann-directed thriller film starring Chris Hemsworth. In December 2014, it was announced that Viola Davis was cast as Amanda Waller in the 2016 DC Comics movie Suicide Squad. In March 2015, she began filming Custody, in addition to serving as one of the executive producers.

Davis married actor Julius Tennon in June 2003. They have a daughter, Genesis, whom they adopted as a newborn in October 2011. Davis is stepmother to Tennon's two sons from previous relationships.

Davis has a younger sister who was a child victim of sexual assault.

Viola Davis's movie credits include...

Year Movie Role
1996 The Substance of Fire Nurse
1998 Out of Sight Moselle Miller
2000 Traffic Social Worker
2001 The Shrink Is In Robin
2001 Kate & Leopold Policewoman
2002 Far from Heaven Sybil
2002 Antwone Fisher Eva May Fisher
2002 Solaris Dr. Gordon
2005 Get Rich or Die Tryin' Grandma
2005 Syriana CIA Chairwoman
2006 The Architect Tonya Neely
2006 World Trade Center Mother in Hospital
2007 Disturbia Detective Parker
2008 Nights in Rodanthe Jean
2008 Doubt Mrs. Miller
2009 Madea Goes to Jail Ellen St. Matthews
2009 State of Play Dr. Judith Franklin
2009 Law Abiding Citizen Mayor April Henry
2010 Knight and Day Director Isabel George
2010 Eat Pray Love Delia Shiraz
2010 It's Kind of a Funny Story Dr. Minerva
2010 Trust Gail Friedman
2011 The Help Aibileen Clark
2011 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Abby Black
2012 Won't Back Down Nona Alberts
2013 Beautiful Creatures Amarie "Amma" Treadeau
2013 Ender's Game Major Anderson
2013 The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Professor Lillian Friedman
2013 Prisoners Nancy Birch
2014 Get On Up Susie Brown
2015 Blackhat FBI Agent Carol Barrett
2015 Lila & Eve Lila Walcott
2015 Custody Judge Martha Sherman
2016 Suicide Squad Amanda Waller

Viola Davis's television credits include...

Year Show/Series Role
1996 NYPD Blue Woman
1996 New York Undercover Mrs. Stapleton
1998 The Pentagon Wars Platoon Sgt. Fanning
1998 Grace & Glorie Rosemary Allbright
2000 Judging Amy Celeste
2000 City of Angels Nurse Lynnette Peeler
2001 Amy & Isabelle Dottie
2001 Providence Dr. Eleanor Weiss
2001 The Guardian Attorney Suzanna Clemons
2001 Third Watch Margo Rodriguez
2002 Father Lefty
2002 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Terry Randolph
2002 The Division Dr. Georgia Davis
2002 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Attorney Campbell
2003 Hack Stevie Morgan
2003 The Practice Aisha Crenshaw
2004 Century City Hannah Crane
2005 Jesse Stone: Stone Cold Molly Crane
2005 Threshold Victoria Rossi
2006 Jesse Stone: Night Passage Molly Crane
2006 Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise Molly Crane
2006 Without a Trace Audrey Williams
2006 Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story Diane Barrino
2007 Fort Pit
2007 Jesse Stone: Sea Change Molly Crane
2007 Traveler Agent Jan Marlow
2008 Brothers & Sisters Ellen Snyder
2008 The Andromeda Strain Dr. Charlene Barton
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Donna Emmett
2009 United States of Tara Lynda P Frazier
How to Get Away with Murder Professor Annalise Keating

Nominations/Awards won by Viola Davis include...

Year Movie Award
2008 Doubt Best Supporting Actress (Nominated)
2011 The Help Best Actress (Nominated)

Memorable Quotes

“We grew up in abject poverty. Acting, writing scripts and skits were a way of escaping our environment at a very young age.”

“[on why she's not inspired to direct] I can't deal with actors! I can't deal with myself. We're neurotic and miserable... I love doing what I'm doing, but while I'm doing it, I'm miserable.”

“The thing about the African-American community compared with the white community is, we are more concerned with image and message than execution. I don't play roles that are necessarily attractive or portray a positive image. They are well-rounded characters. When you squelch excellence to put out a message it's like passing the baton and seeing it drop.”

“[on playing Annalise Keating in 'How To Get Away With Murder'] The challenge for any writer, any artist, is to somehow combine art with the mess that we call life. I spent too much time in my career - probably too much - trying to force writers to write for me in a way that was bold. Well, you know what? This is it. This is bold.”

“[on roles for African-American actresses] You're not doing the Irish and Scottish accents they taught at Juilliard. In the real world you're doing Ebonics and Jamaican.”

Did You Know

Is one of 10 African-American actresses to be Oscar-nominated for 'Best Actress in a Leading Role'. The others in chronological order are Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gabourey Sidibe and Quvenzhané Wallis.

Is one of two African-American actresses (the other being Whoopi Goldberg) to be nominated for an Academy Award in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

As of 2015, has appeared in three films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Traffic (2000), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) and The Help (2011).

Viola Davis in Blackhat (2015).
Playing the mother of a Catholic school student in Doubt (2008).
Davis in Eat Pray Love (2010).
As Major Anderson in Ender's Game (2013).
In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011).
As Professor Keating in How to Get Away With Murder (2014).
Davis in It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010).
In Law Abiding Citizen (2009).
In Lila and Eve (2015).
Davis in Prisoners (2013).
As Dr. Charlene Barton in the remake of The Andromeda Strain (2008).
Viola Davis in The Help (2011).