Viola Davis (born August 11, 1965) is an American actress. She won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Tonya in the original production of King Hedley II, and the 2010 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Rose Maxon in the revival of Fences. In 2014, she began starring as Annalise Keating on the ABC drama How to Get Away with Murder, and in 2015 she became the first African American woman, as well as the first black woman of any nationality, to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The role also won her a SAG Award. In 2012, she was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
After graduating from the Juilliard School in 1993, Davis began her career on stage and won an Obie Award in 1999 for her performance as Ruby McCollum in Everybody's Ruby. In 2008, her performance as Mrs. Miller in the film Doubt earned her several nominations, including the Golden Globe, SAG Award, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. For her lead role as Aibileen Clark in the film The Help (2011), she received nominations for the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won a SAG Award. Her other films include Far from Heaven (2002), Antwone Fisher (2003), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2013), Get on Up (2014) and the upcoming Suicide Squad (2016).
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 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).
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 Rashād.
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.
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.
|1996||Substance of Fire, TheThe Substance of Fire||Nurse|
|1998||Out of Sight||Moselle Miller|
|2001||Shrink Is In, TheThe Shrink Is In||Robin|
|2001||Kate & Leopold||Policewoman|
|2002||Far from Heaven||Sybil|
|2002||Antwone Fisher||Eva May Fisher|
|2005||Get Rich or Die Tryin'||Grandma|
|2006||Architect, TheThe Architect||Tonya Neely|
|2006||World Trade Center||Mother in Hospital|
|2008||Nights in Rodanthe||Jean|
|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|
|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|
|2014||Get On Up||Susie Brown|
|2015||Blackhat||FBI Agent Carol Barrett|
|2015||Lila & Eve||Lila Walcott|
|2015||Custody||Judge Martha Sherman||Post-production
Also executive producer
|2016||Suicide Squad||Amanda Waller||Post-production|
|1996||NYPD Blue||Woman||Episode: "Moby Greg"|
|1996||New York Undercover||Mrs. Stapleton||Episode: "Smack is Back"|
|1998||Pentagon Wars, TheThe Pentagon Wars||Platoon Sgt. Fanning|
|1998||Grace & Glorie||Rosemary Allbright|
|2000||Judging Amy||Celeste||Episode: "Blast from the Past"|
|2000||City of Angels||Nurse Lynnette Peeler||19 episodes|
|2001||Amy & Isabelle||Dottie|
|2001||Providence||Dr. Eleanor Weiss||Episode: "You Can Count On Me"|
|2001||Guardian, TheThe Guardian||Attorney Suzanna Clemons||Episode: "The Men from the Boys"|
|2001||Third Watch||Margo Rodriguez||Episode: "Act Brave"|
|2002||Law & Order: Criminal Intent||Terry Randolph||Episode: "Badge"|
|2002||Division, TheThe Division||Dr. Georgia Davis||Episode: "Remembrance"|
|2002||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Attorney Campbell||Episode: "The Execution of Catherine Willows"|
|2003||Hack||Stevie Morgan||Episode: "Third Strike"|
|2003||Practice, TheThe Practice||Aisha Crenshaw||Episode: "We the People"|
|2004||Century City||Hannah Crane||9 episodes|
|2005||Jesse Stone: Stone Cold||Molly Crane|
|2005||Threshold||Victoria Rossi||Episode: "Shock"|
|2006||Jesse Stone: Night Passage||Molly Crane|
|2006||Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise||Molly Crane|
|2006||Without a Trace||Audrey Williams||Episode: "White Balance"|
|2006||Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story||Diane Barrino||TV movie|
|2007||Jesse Stone: Sea Change||Molly Crane|
|2007||Traveler||Agent Jan Marlow||8 episodes|
|2008||Brothers & Sisters||Ellen Snyder||Episode: "Double Negative"|
|2008||Andromeda Strain, TheThe Andromeda Strain||Dr. Charlene Barton|
|2003–2008||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Donna Emmett||7 episodes|
|2009||United States of Tara||Lynda P Frazier||6 episodes|
|2014–present||How to Get Away with Murder||Professor Annalise Keating||Lead role|
|1992||As You Like It||Denise||Off-Broadway|
|1999||Everybody's Ruby||Ruby McCollum||Off-Broadway|
|1999||The Vagina Monologues||Performer (Replacement)||Off-Broadway|
|2001||King Hedley II||Tonya||Broadway|
- List of awards and nominations received by Viola Davis