Viola Davis

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Viola Davis
Davis in 2010
Born(1965-08-11) August 11, 1965 (age 49)
St. Matthews, South Carolina, United States
Alma materRhode Island College (1988)
Juilliard School (1993)
Years active1996–present
Home townCentral Falls, Rhode Island
Spouse(s)Julius Tennon (m. 2003)
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Viola Davis
Davis in 2010
Born(1965-08-11) August 11, 1965 (age 49)
St. Matthews, South Carolina, United States
Alma materRhode Island College (1988)
Juilliard School (1993)
Years active1996–present
Home townCentral Falls, Rhode Island
Spouse(s)Julius Tennon (m. 2003)

Viola Davis (born August 11, 1965) is an American actress. Beginning her career on the stage, Davis won a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for her role in August Wilson's King Hedley II (2001). She won a second Drama Desk Award for Intimate Apparel (2004), followed by a second Tony and a third Drama Desk Award for her role in Fences (2010).[1]

Among her most notable films are Traffic (2000), Antwone Fisher (2002), and Solaris (2002). Her eleven-minute-long performance as Mrs. Miller in the film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt (2008) earned several honors, including an Academy Award nomination. Her role as the maid Aibileen Clark in the film The Help garnered two Screen Actors Guild Awards (one for Lead Actress and one for Best Ensemble in a motion picture), a BAFTA Award nomination, another Academy Award nomination, and a Golden Globe nomination.[2] In addition to her success, she was listed in Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012.[3] In 2014, Davis stars in the ABC legal thriller How to Get Away with Murder as Professor Annalise Keating.[4]

Early life[edit]

Davis was born on her grandmother's farm, on the former Singleton Plantation, in St. Matthews, South Carolina.[5] She is the second youngest of six children.[6] Her father, Dan Davis, was a horse trainer; her mother, Mary Alice, was a maid, factory worker, and homemaker,[7][8][9] as well as a civil rights activist.[10] Her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island a few months after she was born.[11] Davis has described herself as having "lived in abject poverty and dysfunction" during her childhood.[12]

Davis partially credits her love of stage acting with her involvement in the arts at her alma mater, Central Falls High School.[13] Davis majored in theatre at Rhode Island College, graduating in 1988; in 2002 she received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from the college.[14] She was involved in the federal TRIO Upward Bound and TRIO Student Support Services programs.[15] While Davis was a teenager, her talent was recognized by Bernard Masterson when, as director of Young People's School for the Performing Arts in West Warwick, Rhode Island, he awarded Davis a scholarship into that program.[16]

She also attended the Juilliard School for four years,[8] as a member of the Drama Division's Group 22 (1989–1993).[17]


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."[18] 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 SoderberghOut 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.[19] 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 "Badge", a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode. In 2008, Davis played Mrs. Miller in the film adaptation to the Broadway play Doubt, with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Davis was nominated for several awards for this performance, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[20]

On June 30, 2009, Davis was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[21] On June 13, 2010, Davis won her second Tony Award for her role as Rose Maxson in a revival of August Wilson's Fences.[22] 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.[23] 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 her good friend 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.[24] Also in 2012, Glamour magazine named Davis Glamour's Film Actress of the year.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

In April 2013 it was reported that Davis is in talks to play a starring role in the untitled Michael Mann-directed film that will star Chris Hemsworth and Maggie Casey as his love interest. Legendary Pictures is producing the thriller.[28]

In September 2013, it was announced that Davis would reunite with The Help director Tate Taylor in a biopic of James Brown playing Brown's mother.[29] Her The Help co-star Octavia Spencer was also slated for a role. Davis later revealed that her daughter Genesis would also appear in the movie.[30]

In February of 2014, Davis joined the cast of Shonda Rhimes’ pilot How to Get Away with Murder as the lead character.[31] It was picked up to series for the fall of 2014-15 on May 8, 2014.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Davis married actor Julius Tennon 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.[33]



1996Substance of Fire, TheThe Substance of FireNurse
1998Out of SightMoselle Miller
2000TrafficSocial Worker
2001Shrink Is In, TheThe Shrink Is InRobin
2001Kate & LeopoldPolicewoman
2002Far from HeavenSybil
2002Antwone FisherEva May
2005Get Rich or Die Tryin'Grandma
2005SyrianaCIA ChairwomanUncredited
2006Architect, TheThe ArchitectTonya Neely
2006World Trade CenterMother in hospital
2007DisturbiaDetective Parker
2008Nights in RodantheJean
2008DoubtMrs. Miller
2009Madea Goes to JailEllen
2009State of PlayDr. Judith Franklin
2009Law Abiding CitizenMayor April Henry
2010Knight and DayDirector George
2010Eat Pray LoveDelia
2010It's Kind of a Funny StoryDr. Minerva
2010TrustGail Friedman
2011The HelpAibileen Clark
2011Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseAbby Black
2012Won't Back DownNona Alberts
2013Beautiful CreaturesAmma
2013Ender's GameMajor Anderson
2013The Disappearance of Eleanor RigbyProfessor Lillian FriedmanPost-Production
2013PrisonersNancy Birch
2014Get On UpSusie Brown
2015Lila & EveLila WalcottFilming


1996NYPD BlueWomanEpisode: "Moby Greg"
1996New York UndercoverMrs. StapletonEpisode: "Smack is Back"
1998Pentagon Wars, TheThe Pentagon WarsPlatoon Sgt. Fanning
1998Grace & GlorieRosemary Allbright
2000Judging AmyCelesteEpisode: "Blast from the Past"
2000City of AngelsNurse Lynnette Peeler19 episodes
2001Amy & IsabelleDottie
2001ProvidenceDr. Eleanor WeissEpisode: "You Can Count On Me"
2001Guardian, TheThe GuardianAttorney Suzanna ClemonsEpisode: "The Men from the Boys"
2001Third WatchMargo RodriguezEpisode: "Act Brave"
2002Father Lefty
2002Law & Order: Criminal IntentTerry RandolphEpisode: "Badge"
2002Division, TheThe DivisionDr. Georgia DavisEpisode: "Remembrance"
2002CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationAttorney CampbellEpisode: "The Execution of Catherine Willows"
2003HackStevie MorganEpisode: "Third Strike"
2003Practice, TheThe PracticeAisha CrenshawEpisode: "We the People"
2004Century CityHannah Crane9 episodes
2005Jesse Stone: Stone ColdMolly Crane
2005ThresholdVictoria RossiEpisode: "Shock"
2006Jesse Stone: Night PassageMolly Crane
2006Jesse Stone: Death in ParadiseMolly Crane
2006Without a TraceAudrey WilliamsEpisode: "White Balance"
2006Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino StoryDiane BarrinoTV movie
2007Fort Pit
2007Jesse Stone: Sea ChangeMolly Crane
2007TravelerAgent Jan Marlow8 episodes
2008Brothers & SistersEllen SnyderEpisode: "Double Negative"
2008Andromeda Strain, TheThe Andromeda StrainDr. Charlene Barton
2003–2008Law & Order: Special Victims UnitDonna Emmett7 episodes
2009United States of TaraLynda P Frazier6 episodes
2014How to Get Away with MurderProfessor Annalise KeatingLead role

Theatre credits[edit]

1992As You Like ItDeniseOff-Broadway
1996Seven GuitarsVeraBroadway
1997God's HeartEleanorOff-Broadway
1998Pericles2nd Fisherman/Lychorida/BawdOff-Broadway
1999Everybody's RubyRuby McCollumOff-Broadway
1999The Vagina MonologuesPerformer (Replacement)Off-Broadway
2001King Hedley IITonyaBroadway
2004Intimate ApparelEstherOff-Broadway
2010Fences (Revival)RoseBroadway

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Boroff, Philip (June 14, 2010). "Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, ‘Memphis,’ Win Top Tony Awards". bloomberg. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  2. ^ SAG Awards 2012: Complete list of winners The Associated Press via New York Daily News, January 30, 2012.
  3. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People In The World". Time. April 18, 2012. 
  4. ^ Davis interview NYTimes, September14, 2014
  5. ^ "Best actress nominee Viola Davis has roots in St. Matthews". February 25, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Viola Davis’ path from poverty in Central Falls to Hollywood glamour" February 22, 2009, Providence Journal.
  7. ^ Veteran Actors, First Time Nominees.
  8. ^ a b Buckley, Michael (March 14, 2004). "Chats with Intimate Apparel's Viola Davis and New York Newcomer, King Lear's Geraint Wyn Davies". 
  9. ^ "Viola Davis: "The Help" and "Daring Yourself to Dream Big". August 1, 2011, Life Goes Strong.
  10. ^ Davis spoke of her mother's activism during an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, relating how she had been taken to jail along with her mother at age two when Mary Davis was arrested during a Civil Rights protest (September 20, 2012).
  11. ^ "Best actress nominee Viola Davis has roots in St. Matthews". 
  12. ^ "Viola Davis Tackles Fear, Shines In 'Doubt'" December 10, 2008, NPR.
  13. ^ A.V. Club Viola Davis interview, February 2009.
  14. ^ RIC to Award 1,300 Degrees at Commencement Exercises, from the website of Rhode Island College.
  15. ^ TV Guide Viola Davis: Biography.
  16. ^ Brown, Gita, "Exclusive What’s News @ RIC interview: Viola Davis talks about her life and her new film", What's News, Rhode Island College, August 2, 2011.
  17. ^ "Alumni News". Juilliard School. October 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. 
  18. ^ Truly, Madly, Intimately, September 2004. American Theatre magazine.
  19. ^ Stodghill, Alexis Garrett (December 23, 2011). "Viola Davis' top 10 performances: From 'Traffic' to 'The Help'". Grio. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "Oscar nominations 2009: Amy Adams and Viola Davis discuss their roles in Doubt". The Daily Telegraph. January 22, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Academy Invites 134 to Membership". June 30, 2009. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  22. ^ "Fences Stars Viola Davis & Denzel Washington Win 2010 Tony Awards". June 13, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  23. ^ Sciretta, Peter (November 30, 2009). "Ryan Fleck’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story Begins Production". /Film. Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. Retrieved June 12, 2010. 
  24. ^ "TIME '100 Most Influential People': Kristen Wiig, Viola Davis And Other Actors Honored". moviefone. 2012-04-18. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Film Actress - Viola Davis". glamourmagazine. May 29, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Meryl Streep-Viola Davis Love Fest at Women in Film Awards". showbiz. June 14, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  27. ^ Gans, Andrew (June 25, 2012). "Viola Davis, Helen Mirren, Jane Lynch, Olympia Dukakis, Jennifer Hudson Are Hollywood Walk of Fame Recipients". Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Viola Davis In Talks To Star In Michael Mann’s Cyber Crime Pic". Deadline. April 19, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Tate Taylor Reunites With 'The Help’s' Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer On James Brown Pic". Deadline. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Viola Davis - Viola Davis' Daughter To Make Acting Debut In James Brown Biopic". WENN. October 22, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Viola Davis to Star in ABC Drama 'How to Get Away With Murder'". hollywood reporter. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  32. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (8 May 2014). "ABC Picks Up Shonda Rhimes ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, John Ridley’s ‘American Crime’, Comedy ‘Black-ish’ To Series". Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  33. ^ "Viola Davis Adopts a Daughter, Genesis". October 18, 2011, People Magazine.

External links[edit]