Born: 11 August 1965
Birthplace: Saint Matthews, South Carolina
Best known as: The Oscar-winning star of the 2016 film Fences
Actress Viola Davis has worked steadily on stage and screen since the late 1990s, winning a Tony Award for the leading role in King Hedley II
(2001), an Oscar nomination for a supporting role in Doubt
(2008), and finally winning the Academy Award in 2017 for the drama Fences
. Raised in poverty in Rhode Island, Viola Davis earned scholarships and studied theater at Rhode Island College and at the Juilliard School in New York. First working out of New York, she performed on stage while landing occasional roles in television shows and small roles in feature films. Despite her Tony award and dozens of appearances in television and film, she was considered an unknown when nominated for an Oscar in 2009. Over the years, Davis has been tapped frequently for stereotypical African-American roles, often bringing a dignified maturity to even small parts. She's also demonstrated she has the chops to work with the top names in the business -- appearing in a few Steven Soderbergh
films (Out of Sight
), working with Denzel Washington
in Antoine Fisher
(2002) and along side Oscar-winners Philip Seymour Hoffman
and Meryl Streep
. Her other films include Far From Heaven
(2002, starring Julianne Moore
), the remake of Michael Crichton
's The Andromeda Strain
(2008, starring Benjamin Bratt
) and the comedy Medea Goes to Jail
(2009, starring Tyler Perry
). In 2015 she won an Emmy as outstanding lead actress in a dramatic series for her portrayal of Annalise Keating, the tough criminal defense attorney and professor in How to Get Away with Murder
. She is the first black actress to win the Emmy in that category. Viola Davis was nominated for an Oscar as best actress for her leading role in the 2011 film The Help.
In 2017 she won the Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role in Fences
(2016, again with Denzel Washington), based on the August Wilson
play about African-American life in 1950s Pittsburgh.
Viola Davis married actor Julius Tennon in 2003; they met when appearing together in an episode of the TV show City of Angels. They have a daughter, Genesis, whom they adopted in October of 2013.
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