Viola Davis was born on August 11, 1965 in St. Matthews, South Carolina. Her father was a horse trainer and her mother was a maid, factory worker and civil rights activist. Davis was the second youngest of six children.
Davis’ family lived in abject poverty. She has stated that she would often go without food as a child and that by the time she entered high school, she no longer had any teeth. Despite their financial struggles, Davis’ parents emphasized the importance of education and enrolled her in acting classes at a community outreach program when she was a teenager. This allowed the shy Davis to break out of her shell.
What was Viola Davis’ childhood like?
Davis grew up in poverty in St. Matthews, South Carolina as one of six children. Her family struggled financially and she often went without food or other basic necessities. Despite their hardships, Davis’ parents prioritized her education and enrolled her in an acting program as a shy teenager to help bring her out of her shell.
Where did Viola Davis grow up?
Viola Davis grew up in St. Matthews, South Carolina in a low-income household. St. Matthews is a small town in Calhoun County, South Carolina, about 35 miles southeast of Columbia, the state capital.
What did Viola Davis’ parents do for work?
Viola Davis’ father worked as a horse trainer. Her mother held various jobs including maid, factory worker and civil rights activist.
Education and Early Acting Career
After graduating high school, Davis earned a scholarship to attend Rhode Island College. She continued to study acting and earned her MFA from Juilliard School in 1993.
Davis then began her acting career by performing in various Off-Broadway productions. Her first small screen roles came in 1996 when she secured guest spots on hit shows NYPD Blue and Law & Order.
Over the next few years, she began landing recurring TV roles on series like City of Angels and Hack. But widespread critical praise came in 2001 when she played a supporting role in the Denzel Washington led film Training Day.
|Born in St. Matthews, South Carolina on August 11
|Earned MFA from Juilliard School
|Landed first TV roles on NYPD Blue and Law & Order
|Earned acclaim for role in Training Day film
Where did Viola Davis attend college?
Davis earned a scholarship to Rhode Island College after finishing high school. She later went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from the prestigious Juilliard School performing arts conservatory in 1993.
What was Viola Davis’ first film role?
Viola Davis’ first major film role was actually a supporting part in the 2001 crime thriller Training Day starring Denzel Washington. Her performance earned her widespread critical praise and put her acting talents on the map in Hollywood.
Breakout Fame in Doubt and The Help
Davis worked steadily in the early 2000s, landing Tony-nominated roles on Broadway as well as supporting parts in films like Far from Heaven, Out of Sight and Solaris.
But her big breakout moment came in 2008 when she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress portraying Mrs. Miller in Doubt. Her astonishing eight-minute performance went toe-to-toe with Meryl Streep and left critics in awe.
A few years later, Davis earned her second Oscar nomination for her leading role as Aibileen Clark in the period drama The Help. Her emotional performance as a resilient 1960s maid drew rave reviews. Davis also won a SAG award and became the first African-American actress to win the award for Outstanding Lead Actress.
What was Viola Davis’ first Oscar nominated performance?
Viola Davis earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs. Miller in the 2008 drama Doubt starring Meryl Streep. Despite having just eight minutes of screen time, her astonishing performance earned high praise.
How many Oscar nominations has Viola Davis received?
As of 2023, Viola Davis has been nominated for four Academy Awards. She earned nominations for:
- Best Supporting Actress – Doubt (2008)
- Best Actress – The Help (2011)
- Best Supporting Actress – Fences (2016)
- Best Actress – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)
She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Fences in 2017.
Primetime TV Success with How to Get Away with Murder
In 2014, Davis made history by becoming first African-American actress to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She earned the honor for her nuanced portrayal of hotshot law professor Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder.
Davis earned critical acclaim for bringing complexity and depth to the complicated character over the show’s six seasons. She won the Emmy again in 2015, becoming the first black actress with multiple wins in the category. She also pocketed two SAG awards for the role in 2015 and 2016.
Over its run from 2014 to 2020, How to Get Away with Murder was praised for its diverse casting and storylines. It became must-see TV for the twists and mysteries woven around Annalise Keating and her law students.
What character did Viola Davis play on How to Get Away with Murder?
Viola Davis starred as Professor Annalise Keating on the hit ABC drama series How to Get Away with Murder from 2014-2020. Annalise was a brilliant, sophisticated, and extremely formidable criminal defense attorney and law professor who became entangled in murder and deception with her students.
What awards did Viola Davis win for How to Get Away with Murder?
For her starring role on How to Get Away with Murder as Annalise Keating, Viola Davis made history as the first black actress to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015. She won the Emmy again in 2016. Davis also won Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards in 2015 and 2016 for her critically praised performance.
Film Success with The Help and Fences
While starring on How to Get Away with Murder, Davis also continued her acclaimed film career in the 2010s. She earned a third Oscar nomination for producing and starring alongside Denzel Washington in the 2016 family drama Fences – an adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony Award winning play.
Davis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her passionate portrayal of Rose Maxson, a loving but conflicted 1950s housewife struggling to keep her family together.
In 2020, Davis earned her fourth Oscar nod for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – a Netflix adaptation of August Wilson’s play showcasing 1920s Chicago musicians. As troubled blues singer Ma Rainey, Davis transformed into the brash, commanding “Mother of the Blues” and earned more rave reviews.
How many Oscars has Viola Davis won?
As of 2023, Viola Davis has won one Academy Award out of four nominations. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2017 for her role as Rose Maxson in the drama Fences, co-starring and directed by Denzel Washington.
What August Wilson plays has Viola Davis starred in film adaptations of?
Viola Davis has starred in film adaptations of two different August Wilson plays:
- Fences (2016) – Davis won her Oscar starring alongside Denzel Washington as a conflicted 1950s housewife named Rose Maxson.
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) – Davis transformed into 1920s blues singer Ma Rainey and earned more acclaim.
Both films adapted Wilson’s plays to explore themes of family, race, trauma and music.
|Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress
|Oscar nomination for Best Actress
|Won Oscar for Best Supporting Actress
|Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
|Oscar nomination for Best Actress
What was the first August Wilson play that Viola Davis starred in a film adaptation of?
The first August Wilson play that Viola Davis starred in a Hollywood film adaptation of was Fences in 2016. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her passionate portrayal of 1950s housewife Rose Maxson in the family drama co-starring and directed by Denzel Washington. Four years later, Davis then starred as the lead character Ma Rainey in 2020’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Recent Projects and Emmy Win for The First Lady
In 2022, Davis starred as former first lady Michelle Obama in the Showtime anthology drama The First Lady. She portrayed Obama over multiple eras of her life – from promising young lawyer to history-making First Lady of the United States. Behind the scenes, Davis also served as executive producer.
Critics praised Davis’ ability to capture Obama’s strength, resilience intelligence and warmth. Her performance earned Davis the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series – making her only the second black woman after Regina King to win acting and producing Emmys in the same year.
Davis also made her mark in other high profile films recently like Widows in 2018 and led the ensemble cast of The Woman King in 2022 – an epic centered around the all-female warrior unit protecting an African kingdom in the 1800s. Up next, she is set to star in an action thriller titled G20 about a secret group formed to prevent mass destruction.
What award did Viola Davis win for playing Michelle Obama in The First Lady?
Viola Davis won the 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for portraying former first lady Michelle Obama in Showtime’s drama The First Lady. The award made Davis only the second black woman in history to win acting and producing Emmys in the same year.
What is Viola Davis’ next film project?
Viola Davis will next star in an action thriller film titled G20. The movie will center around Davis’ character who is tasked with heading a secret group formed by the G20 international alliance to prevent mass destruction across the world. Not many other plot details have been revealed yet about G20 which is in pre-production.
Davis met fellow actor Julius Tennon on the set of the TV show City of Angels in 2003. They married in 2003 and have one daughter together. In 2011, Davis and Tennon founded a production company called JuVee Productions focused on spotlighting people of color and promoting diversity in entertainment and media. Some of their productions include The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, G20, First Lady and Custody.
The skilled actress is also a longtime philanthropist – earning recognition for her extensive charity work. She has been involved with and supports various organizations like the Hunger Is campaign, Groomes Family Scholarship Fund, Creative Coalition and more.
In addition, Davis is an outspoken advocate for equal rights and opportunities for marginalized communities. She was one of the founders of the #TimesUp movement creating legal funds to fight workplace harassment of women. In 2022, Davis released a moving memoir detailing her upbringing and career journey called Finding Me.
Who is Viola Davis married to?
Viola Davis has been married to actor Julius Tennon since 2003. They met on the set of the short-lived ABC medical drama City of Angels on which they both starred. Tennon has appeared in various TV series over the years. Together they founded the production company JuVee Productions in 2011 focused on promoting diversity in entertainment.
Does Viola Davis have any children?
Yes, Viola Davis and husband Julius Tennon have one daughter together named Genesis Tennon who was born in 2011. In her memoir, Davis shared her challenging journey with surrogacy and fertility before adopting Genesis as a baby.
Davis’ Impact and Legacy in the Entertainment Industry
Over her decades long career, Viola Davis has earned immense respect as a skilled performercombined with the ability to bring gravitas, complexity and humanity to every role. Her raw emotion and natural authenticity shine whether playing a nurturing 1960s maid or a cutthroat lawyer fighting back demons.
With her mantle of awards, Davis has also rightfully earned her place in cinema and television history as the most nominated black actress ever. She shattered age old barriers, glass ceilings and inspired future generations both on and off screen with unflinching determination and talent.
Today Davis still fearlessly raises her voice to champion equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond so everyone can live up to their God given potential. Throughout all her success, the actress remains firmly grounded in her identity putting family first. After years of searching, Davis found confidence in her backstory understanding why representation matters. Her memorable portrayals of resilient women echo a powerful mantra – “you cannot define me.“
In summary, Viola Davis has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most decorated and revered actresses over the past two decades. Through her commanding and emotionally riveting performances on both film and TV, Davis brings humanity to each character she embodies regardless of age, status or background.
Behind the scenes, she wields her influence as an Academy Award winner to generate more opportunities for women of color and other marginalized communities in entertainment and media. As an actress and activist who overcame poverty and systemic barriers from an early age, Davis serves as a role model with authenticity on what women can achieve when unapologetically owning their self-worth.
Though she built an esteemed body of work across theatre, movies and television, Davis has not compromised her family values – crediting her husband and daughter as her proudest production. As new generations discover Davis’ talents, the depth and complexity she brings leap off the screen challenging assumptions of what leading ladies should look and sound like. Viola Davis’ star power will undoubtedly continue ascending as the actress brings nuance and strength to every story she chooses to tell across any genre in her already iconic career.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is Viola Davis’ birthday?
Viola Davis was born on August 11, 1965 in St. Matthews, South Carolina. In 2023 she will turn 58 years old.
What ethnicity is Viola Davis?
Viola Davis is African-American. She has stated that she is proud to fully embrace and showcase her natural features, skin complexion and hair on screen rather than conforming to Hollywood beauty standards.
How much is Viola Davis worth?
According to multiple reports, Viola Davis’ net worth as of 2023 is estimated to be approximately $30 million dollars. Her worth has steadily climbed over years of acclaimed acting roles on top of other entertainment producing projects.
Is Viola Davis married?
Yes, Viola Davis has been married to actor Julius Tennon since 2003 after meeting on the set of City of Angels. Together they have one daughter named Genesis born via surrogacy in 2011. Davis and Tennon also run a production company called JuVee Productions.
How tall is Viola Davis?
Viola Davis stands at 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm) according to online records. Some internet sites mistakenly mixed her up with someone else stating she was 5’7 at one point. But the veteran actress confirmed in interviews her true height is 5’5.
So in summary, Viola Davis has a net worth around $30 million as of 2023. She married Julius Tennon back in 2003 and they have one daughter together named Genesis born in 2011. Davis stands at 5’5″ tall and proudly embraces her African-American ethnicity on screen rather than conforming to beauty standards.