Viola Davis - Influential Black Leaders
Influential Black Leaders- Viola Davis
Born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Davis began her acting career in Central Falls, Rhode Island, starring in minor 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 winning 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. Davis's film breakthrough came in 2008, when her role as a troubled mother in the film Doubt earned her a nomination for the Academy Award 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 playing 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), Davis received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won a SAG Award. In 2014, Davis began playing lawyer Annalise Keating in the ABC television drama series How to Get Away with Murder, and in 2015, she became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. In 2016, Davis played Amanda Waller in the superhero film Suicide Squad and its upcoming sequel and reprised the role of Maxson in the film adaptation of Fences, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to receive a BAFTA nomination for starring in the heist film Widows (2018).
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.
Early life and education
Davis was born on August 11, 1965, in St. Matthews, South Carolina. She is the daughter of Mary Alice (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.. Two months after she was born, her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, with Davis and two of her sisters, leaving her older sister and brother with her grandparents.
Her mother was also an activist during the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of 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.
Following graduation 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).
1996–2007: Early beginnings
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. 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 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. Hers was 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. She also played a secondary role in Far From Heaven, a 2002 film directed by Todd Haynes. 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".
2020 upcoming film and television roles
In 2020, Davis served as an executive producer and appeared in the documentary film Giving Voice, following students entering the August Wilson monologue competition for a chance to compete on Broadway. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released by Netflix. That same year, Davis will star in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom as the titular character based upon the novel of the same name play of the same name directed by George C. Wolfe for Netflix.
Davis will reprise her role as Amanda Waller in The Suicide Squad set for release in August 2021, She will also appear in an untitled drama film, directed by Nora Fingscheidt opposite Sandra Bullock for Netflix.
On March 1, 2018, Davis announced that she would star alongside Lupita Nyong'o in The Woman King, inspired by true events that took place within The Kingdom of Dahomey. The film will tell the story of Nanisca, the general of an all-female military unit, played by Davis, and her daughter Nawi, played by Nyong'o.
Corduroy Takes a Bow
On October 10, 2017, Davis announced that she would write the sequel to the classic picture book Corduroy, titled Corduroy Takes a Bow. In a press release, Davis stated that "Corduroy has always held a special place in my life, first as a child paging through it, and then again with my daughter, introducing her to the adventures of that adorable teddy bear". On March 13, 2018, Davis shared the cover of the book on her Twitter account. The book was published by Penguin Random House on September 4, 2018.
Philanthropy and activism
In 2011, Davis donated funds to her hometown public library in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to assist in preventing its closure due to a lack of city funding. In 2018, Davis donated funds to her alma mater, Central Falls High School, for its theater program.
Since 2014, Davis has collaborated with the Hunger Is campaign to help eradicate childhood hunger across America. Speaking on her work, Davis said that "seventeen million kids in this country, so one in five kids in this country, go to bed hungry. I was one of those kids, because I grew up in abject poverty; I did everything that you could possibly imagine to get food: I rummaged in the garbage cans, I stole from the local store constantly. "As an honoree at the 2014 Variety Power of Women luncheon, Davis further commented that "the thing that made me join...was the word 'eradicate', 'get rid of' - not by thirty-percent not by twenty-percent not by fifty-percent, but to do away [with it]. Because everyone should be a child, and should grow up and have a chance at the American dream". In September 2017, Davis started the $30K in 30 Days Project with Hunger Is, awarding a $1,000 grant to the Rhode Island Community food bank in her home state.
As part of her partnership with Vaseline to promote the Vaseline Healing Project, Davis attended the groundbreaking of a free community health center in Central Falls, Rhode Island in October 2016 that was sponsored by the project. The project provides dermatological care to help heal the skin of those affected by poverty around the world. She was also a speaker at the 2018 Women's March event in Los Angeles.
Davis married actor Julius Tennon in June 2002. In 2011, Davis and her husband adopted an infant daughter. Davis is a stepmother to Tennon's children from previous relationships.
Davis is a Christian and regularly attends services at Oasis Church in Los Angeles.
Acting credits and awards
Main articles: Viola Davis on screen and stage and List of awards and nominations received by Viola Davis
According to Rotten Tomatoes and The Numbers, Davis's most commercially successful and critically acclaimed films include Traffic (2000), Doubt (2008), Law Abiding Citizen (2009), Knight and Day and Eat Pray Love (2010); The Help (2011), Suicide Squad and Fences (2016).
Throughout her career, Davis is a recipient of numerous industry and critics' awards. For her stage work, she has won two Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, an Obie Award and Theater World Award. She holds the distinction of becoming the first and only actress of color to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and is the first African-American to win five Screen Actors Guild Awards.
She has been nominated for four Golden Globes Awards, two British Academy Film Awards winning one for each and by earning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress honor for Fences, Davis became the first black actor to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting: winning a competitive Oscar, Emmy and Tony in acting categories.She is one of only two black actresses (the other being Octavia Spencer) to have received three Academy Award nominations. Davis was awarded an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from her undergraduate alma mater, Rhode Island College, in 2002. On January 20, 2020, Davis was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in fine arts from Indiana University.