On August 11, 1965, Viola Davis was born St. Matthews, South Carolina. After enduring a challenging childhood, Davis grew up to become a celebrated film, television and stage actress. She was the first black person to be nominated for three Academy Awards. Then, in 2017, she completed the rare “triple-crown” of acting, a term used to describe actors or actresses who earn at least one competitive acting award at the Oscars, Tony and Emmys. Today we wish Viola Davis a happy 53rd birthday!
Davis and her two sisters were raised by their parents in Central Falls, Rhode Island. They lived in abject poverty and endured pervasive racism as one of the only black families in town. To deal with the precarious and tumultuous nature of their lives, Davis and her sisters would escape by acting in a fantasy world. At Central Falls High School, Davis joined the theatre program and began to further develop her talent as an actress. After graduating from Rhode Island College in 1988, Davis attended the Juilliard School for four years as a member of the Drama Division “Group 22.”
In 1996, Davis made her big screen debut with a bit part as a nurse in “The Substance of Fire.” After various guest spots in a series of television shows and films, Davis appeared on Broadway in “King Hedley II,” for which she was awarded a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. In 2011, she won her second Tony Award, this time for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Rose Maxson in a revival of August Wilson’s “Fences.” This achievement made her the second black woman to win the award.
Davis had her breakthrough film role in “Doubt” starring opposite Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Although she only appeared in one scene, Davis’ performance was so powerful that she was nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. A few years later, Davis received more critical acclaim for her portrayal of Aibileen Clark in “The Help.” She received an Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for her role as 1960s housemaid in Mississippi.
On September 20, 2015, Davis won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role on “How To Get Away With Murder.” She also became the first black actress to win the award in this category. Then, on February 26, 2017, Davis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress Award her performance in the movie adaptation of “Fences.” In her powerful acceptance speech, she said, “You know, there’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered, and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, ‘what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’ And I say: exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition; people who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession to celebrate what it means to live a life.”