Davis at the SAG Awards, 2015
August 11, 1965|
St. Matthews, South Carolina, U.S.
Rhode Island College (1988)|
Juilliard School (1993)
|Home town||Central Falls, Rhode Island|
|Spouse(s)||Julius Tennon (m. 2003)|
Viola Davis (born August 11, 1965) is an American producer and actress of stage, screen, and television. 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. She played supporting and minor roles in several films and television series in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the films Kate & Leopold (2001) and Far from Heaven (2002), and the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2001, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Tonya in the original production of King Hedley II.
Davis' film breakthrough came in 2008 when her supporting role in the drama Doubt earned her several nominations, including the Golden Globe, SAG, and 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 her role as Rose Maxon in the revival of Fences. For her lead role as Aibeleen Clark in 1960s in the comedy-drama The Help (2011), she received nominations for the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and the Academy Award for Best Actress, and won a SAG Award.
From 2014 onward, Davis began starring as the lawyer Annalise Keating on the ABC drama How to Get Away with Murder, and in 2015 she became 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 two SAG Awards in 2015 and 2016. In 2012, she was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, are the founders of the production company JuVee Productions. Davis has starred in their productions Lila & Eve (2015) and Custody (2016).
Davis was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, at her grandparents’ house on the Singleton Plantation.She is the daughter of Mary Alice (née Logan) and Dan Davis,and 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 her 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 theater 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 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.
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 black woman of any nationality to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She received a second Primetime Emmy Award nomination for the role in 2016.
In 2016, Davis starred in the courtroom drama Custody, on which she also served as an executive producer, played Amanda Waller in the DC Comics film Suicide Squad, a film adaptation of a comic book series of the same name, and reprised her role as Rose Maxson for the film adaptation of Fences.
|1996||Substance of Fire, TheThe Substance of Fire||Nurse|
|1998||Out of Sight||Moselle Miller|
|2001||Shrink Is In, TheThe Shrink Is In||Robin|
|Kate & Leopold||Policewoman|
|2002||Far from Heaven||Sybil|
|Antwone Fisher||Eva May Fisher|
|2005||Get Rich or Die Tryin'||Grandma|
|2006||Architect, TheThe Architect||Tonya Neely|
|World Trade Center||Mother in Hospital|
|2008||Nights in Rodanthe||Jean|
|2009||Madea Goes to Jail||Ellen St. Matthews|
|State of Play||Dr. Judith Franklin|
|Law Abiding Citizen||Mayor April Henry|
|2010||Knight and Day||Director Isabel George|
|Eat Pray Love||Delia Shiraz|
|It's Kind of a Funny Story||Dr. Minerva|
|2011||The Help||Aibileen Clark|
|Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close||Abby Black|
|2012||Won't Back Down||Nona Alberts|
|2013||Beautiful Creatures||Amarie "Amma" Treadeau|
|Ender's Game||Major Anderson|
|The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby||Professor Lillian Friedman|
|2014||Get On Up||Susie Brown|
|2015||Blackhat||FBI Agent Carol Barrett|
|Lila & Eve||Lila Walcott|
|2016||Custody||Judge Martha Sherman||Also executive producer|
|Suicide Squad||Amanda Waller|
|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|
|2013||Sofia the First||Helen Hanshaw (voice)||Episode: "The Buttercups"|
|2014–present||How to Get Away with Murder||Professor Annalise Keating||Main role|
|1992||As You Like It||Denise||Off-Broadway|
|1999||Everybody's Ruby||Ruby McCollum|
|The Vagina Monologues||Performer (Replacement)|
|2001||King Hedley II||Tonya||Broadway|
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- SAG Awards 2012: Complete list of winners The Associated Press via New York Daily News, January 30, 2012.
- "The 100 Most Influential People In The World". Time. April 18, 2012.
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- "Veteran Actors, First Time Nominees". WSJ. February 20, 2009.
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- "Viola Davis: "The Help" and "Daring Yourself to Dream Big", Life Goes Strong, August 1, 2011.
- 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 the age of two when Mary Davis was arrested during a Civil Rights protest (September 20, 2012).
- "Viola Davis Tackles Fear, Shines In 'Doubt'", NPR, December 10, 2008.
- "Viola Davis". The A.V. Club.
- RIC to Award 1,300 Degrees at Commencement Exercises, from the website of Rhode Island College.
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- "Alumni News". Juilliard School. October 2011. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011.
- Moynihan, Rob (January 19, 2015). "How I Got My SAG-AFTRA Card", TV Guide, p. 8.
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- Stodghill, Alexis Garrett (December 23, 2011). "Viola Davis' top 10 performances: From 'Traffic' to 'The Help'". Grio. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- Caro, Mark (February 14, 2009). "Viola Davis: The Pop Machine interview". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Oscar nominations 2009: Amy Adams and Viola Davis discuss their roles in Doubt". The Daily Telegraph. January 22, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- "Academy Invites 134 to Membership". oscars.org. June 30, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- "Fences Stars Viola Davis & Denzel Washington Win 2010 Tony Awards". broadway.com. June 13, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- 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.
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- "TIME '100 Most Influential People': Kristen Wiig, Viola Davis And Other Actors Honored". moviefone. April 18, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
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- 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.
- "Tate Taylor Reunites With 'The Help's' Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer On James Brown Pic". Deadline. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
- "Viola Davis – Viola Davis' Daughter To Make Acting Debut In James Brown Biopic". WENN. October 22, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
- "Viola Davis to Star in ABC Drama 'How to Get Away With Murder'". hollywood reporter. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Andreeva, Nellie (May 8, 2014). "ABC Picks Up Shonda Rhimes 'How To Get Away With Murder', John Ridley's 'American Crime', Comedy 'Black-ish' To Series". Deadline.com. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- Nakamura, Reid. "Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson Make Emmy History With 'How to Get Away With Murder,' 'Empire' Roles". Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Rachel Handler. "Watch Viola Davis Explain Her Historic Emmys Speech to Ellen DeGeneres". TIME, September 24, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2015
- Michael Gold. Viola Davis’s Emmy Speech. Awards Season. The 2015 Emmy Awards. New York Times, September 20, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
- Stephanie Merry, "Emmy Awards: ‘Game of Thrones’ beats ‘Mad Men’, Viola Davis becomes first African American to win best actress in drama, Jon Hamm finally wins best actor, ‘Veep’ sweeps", Washington Post, September 20, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
- "Emmy Nominations 2016: Game of Thrones Rules Again". New York Times. July 7, 2016. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
- "Viola Davis In Talks To Star In Michael Mann's Cyber Crime Pic". Deadline. April 19, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
- McNary, Dave (April 30, 2015). "Hayden Panettiere, Ellen Burstyn Join Viola Davis in 'Custody',". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
- "EXCLUSIVE: Viola Davis Bags Amanda Waller Role In 'Suicide Squad'". Latino-Review.com. December 16, 2014.
- Johnson, Zach (July 29, 2015). "Viola Davis Poses With Daughter Genesis Tennon for AARP the Magazine and Reflects on Her Life Before Turning 50". E!. Archived from the original on September 21, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- Nahas, Aili; Raftery, Elizabeth (October 18, 2011). "Viola Davis Adopts a Daughter, Genesis". People. Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- Lenker, Margaret. "Viola Davis Opens Up About Her Sister's Sexual Assault at The Rape Foundation's Stuart House Dedication". Retrieved November 21, 2015.
- Sharma, Nemisha (December 6, 2015). "'Luke Cage': 5 Cool Things You Didn't Know About Marvel/Netflix Star Mike Colter". Design & Trend. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Viola Davis.|
- Viola Davis at the Internet Movie Database
- Viola Davis at the Internet Broadway Database
- Viola Davis at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Works by or about Viola Davis in libraries (WorldCat catalog)