Davis, Viola

Davis, Viola, 1965-, African-American actress and producer, b. St. Matthews, S.C., Rhode Island College (B.A., 1988), Juilliard (1993, acting; honorary doctorate, 2014). Davis’s family relocated to Central Falls, R.I., shortly after her birth; her father was a horse trainer and her mother was a civil rights activist who worked as a maid and factory worker to help support the family. Davis began acting in high school, and then studied her craft in college and at Juilliard. She made her Broadway debut in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars (1996). Television and film work followed, with a return to Broadway in Wilson’s King Hedley II (2001), for which she won her first Tony and Drama Desk Awards; a second Tony Award came in 2010 for her appearance in the revival of Wilson’s Fences. Notable film appearances include Doubt (2008, Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe, and Academy awards),The Help (2011; two Screen Actors Guild Awards) and the film version of Fences (2016; Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA awards). She starred in the TV drama How to Get Away with Murder (2014-20), becoming the first Black actress to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Davis was honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.

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