USA Today gives a review of Viola’s memoir which is topping the best seller lists! Be sure to go get your copy now!
Viola Davis’ raw and moving memoir “Finding Me” (HarperOne, 304 pp.) finds itself at No. 1 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list this week.
The Oscar-, Emmy- and Tony award-winning thespian, the first Black woman to win the acting triple crown, shares her personal story of overcoming a childhood filled with poverty and dysfunction to become one of the most celebrated artists of her generation.
Now considered Hollywood royalty, the actress pulls no punches telling her story. According to USA TODAY, “it’s clear from the first page that Davis is going to serve a more intimate, unpolished account than is typical of the average (often ghost-written) celebrity memoir; ‘Finding Me’ reads like Davis is sitting you down for a one-on-one conversation about her life, warts and all.”
Oprah Winfrey chose the memoir for her book club and said “Finding Me” had a big impact on her. “After I finished reading the first paragraph, I knew this was a book I wanted to share with the world,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I am in awe that Viola overcame all that she did to not only survive but become a role model for the world as a renowned actress, a mother, a wife and the woman that she is today.”
I have added HQ captures to the gallery from the first episode of The First Lady. Enjoy!
– Simply Viola Davis > Episode Captures > 01×01 | That White House
This week Showtime held a For Your Consideration Event & Premiere for their new series The First Lady which Viola attended. She looked stunning in a red gown designed by Stella McCartney which she accessorized with gold earrings by Satta Matturi.
Viola is featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine where she talks about her new series The First Lady and her new memoir Finding Me.
How she drew on a life of private hardship to become one of the greatest actors of her generation.
For a month, Viola Davis had been stuck. In the spring of 2020, in the late nights of lockdown, she set out to write her memoir. She had her routine: Get out of bed in the middle of the night, make herself a cup of tea, start writing in her movie room, fall asleep in one of its leather recliners, wake up, write some more, nod off again. But for weeks, she couldn’t figure out exactly where to begin. Should she start with her life as a celebrity, or the beauty contest she lost when she was a child, or the fact that people always wanted to hug her when they ran into her in public? Nothing worked.
Then one night, a conversation she had years ago with Will Smith on the set of “Suicide Squad” came floating back into her consciousness. He asked her who she really was, if she had been honest enough with herself to know the answer. She was 50 at the time and replied confidently, indignantly, that yes, she knew. He tried again, saying: “Look, I’m always going to be that 15-year-old boy whose girlfriend broke up with him. That’s always going to be me. So, who are you?”
A memory returned to her. When she was in third grade, a group of eight or nine boys made a game out of chasing her home at the end of the school day. They would taunt her, yelling insults and slurs, throwing stones and bricks at her, while she ducked and dodged and wept.
One day, the boys caught her. Her shoes were worn through to the bottom, which slowed her down. (Usually she would run barefoot, her shoes in her hands, but it was winter in Central Falls, R.I., where she grew up.) The boys pinned her arms back and took her to their ringleader, who would decide what to do with her next. They were all white, except for the ringleader. He was a Cape Verdean boy who identified as Portuguese to differentiate himself from African Americans, despite being nearly the same shade as Davis. Unlike her, he could use his foreign birth to distance himself from the town’s racism: He wasn’t like those Black people.
“She’s ugly!” he said. “Black f***ing n****r.”
“I don’t know why you’re saying that to me,” she said. “You’re Black, too!”
Time slowed down. The ringleader howled in fury, screaming that he wasn’t Black at all, that she should never let him hear her call him that again. He punched her, and the rest of the boys threw her onto the ground and kicked snow on her.
By the time Davis and Smith had that conversation in 2015, she was a bona fide star: She had been nominated for two Oscars, won two Tonys and was playing the lead role in a network television show, “How to Get Away with Murder.” (“Hell, Oprah knew who I was,” she writes.) But in that conversation, she realized that not only had she remained that terrified little girl, tormented for the color of her skin, but that she also defined herself by that fear. All these years later, she was still running, trying to dodge the myriad tribulations — anti-Blackness, colorism, racism, classism, misogyny — that she had faced, other people’s problems with her. Davis’s early life is dark and unnerving, full of blood, bruises, loss, grief, death, trauma. But that day after school was perhaps her most wounding memory: It was the first time her spirit and heart were broken. She had her beginning.
To watch Davis act is to witness a deep-sea plunge into a feeling: Even when her characters are opaque, you can sense her under the surface, empathetic and searching. This skill has been on display since the beginning of her film career, when she garnered award nominations for performances that were fewer than 15 minutes long. There’s an industry achievement called the Triple Crown of Acting: an actor winning an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. Only 24 actors hold the title, and Davis is the only African American.
Davis is also, then, a member of the small troupe of former theater actors who have made the jump to movie stardom, and you can recognize that gravitas, that same finesse that makes me sit up straighter whenever I see James Earl Jones onscreen. But there is also vulnerability alongside her poise. The more time I spent with her, the more I wondered if, by embodying someone else’s tragedies, she was able to wrench her own to the surface. Reading her memoir, “Finding Me,” which is being published on April 26, you understand where her ability comes from: Only someone who has already been dragged into the depths of emotion readily knows how to get back there.
Davis told me that there’s so much vanity in Hollywood that she thinks people are afraid to take the nonpretty roles. “It’s more important for me to see the mess and the imperfection along with the beauty and all of that, for me to feel validated,” she said. “If it’s not there, then I feel, once again, the same way I felt when I was keeping secrets as a kid. But the only reason to keep secrets is because of shame. I don’t want to do that anymore.”
In one of our first conversations, Davis described the difference between method acting, which requires a performer to completely subsume herself into the life of her character, and a more technical approach that might, say, rely on breathing techniques to be able to readily cry. “I believe in the marriage of both, because I want to go home at the end of the day,” she said. She thinks that actors need to study life itself. Feelings are never simple; the mind wanders off track. “I always use this example of when my dad died, and we were devastated,” she told me. But at the wake, when people streamed through the doors to pay their respects, “it became this big reunion of laughing and remembering — real laughter to real joy, then tears. But I was observing my thoughts, and I went from being devastated one moment to thinking about what I was going to eat.” It’s like a Chekhov play: You can’t tell the story of the joy without telling the story of the pain alongside it.
“Your thoughts go every which way,” she said. “They run the gamut. There’s a wide berth of life. It’s like, as soon as you think your life is falling apart, then you’re laughing hysterically. That’s how life works.”
Read the rest of the article in our press library.
Take a look in the gallery for HQ photos of Viola Davis at yesterday’s event Deadline Contenders Television, enjoy!
CBS News’ Lesley Stahl sits down with Michelle Pfeiffer (who plays Betty Ford), Viola Davis (Michelle Obama), and Gillian Anderson (Eleanor Roosevelt) about how they approached the roles of women who used the often-hidden power of their positions to change the course of history.
The forty-eight minute special arrives in celebration of the actress’s upcoming memoir.
Viola Davis is undoubtedly one of the great actresses of her generation, if not of modern cinema entirely. With an Emmy, two Tonys, a Golden Globe, four SAG Awards, and an Oscar under her belt, she’s proven her prowess and talent again and again — and now, she’s taking a step away from the silver screen to partner with Netflix for a different kind of project.
Netflix has announced a new special sit-down episode celebrating the decorated actress: Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event, to air later this month. In celebration of Davis’s new memoir, Finding Me, the new special event sees her sitting down with personality and host Oprah Winfrey to talk about her childhood, her career, and what brings her peace and happiness in life after a troubling young adulthood. The forty-eight minute special is set to cover both the good and the bad of the much celebrated actress’s life, from her childhood growing up in extreme poverty to winning an Oscar, discussing how “giving up hope that the past could be different has brought her peace, forgiveness, and a sense of self”.
The Netflix special and the memoir it is paired with are just a few of the projects Davis has in store for 2022 and beyond. She is also set to star in this year’s The Woman King, about the true story of the Kingdom of Dahomey in Africa directed by The Old Guard’s Gina Prince-Bythewood, as well as The First Lady, an anthology series where she will play former first lady Michelle Obama. These performances follow up a stacked 2021 for her, where she appeared in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, as well as partnering with Netflix for The Unforgivable, starring Sandra Bullock.
Winfrey also has a busy year ahead of her, as she is producing the musical film version of The Color Purple, which is set to hit screens in 2023. Much like 2007’s Hairspray was a film adaptation of a stage musical adapted from a classic film, this version of The Color Purple is the same, adapting the stage version of Alice Walker’s classic novel, starring Fantasia Taylor, Colman Domingo, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, and Halle Bailey.
Orpah + Viola is executive produced by Tara Montgomery and Terry Wood through Harpo, with co-executive producer Brian Piotrowicz. The special premieres on the streamer on April 22.
There’s a scene in the 2016 film Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy, in which the first lady takes a group of reporters through the East Wing, an area of the White House that up until then had been cut off from the public. When producer Cathy Schulman saw this moment, in which Kennedy points out where the first ladies before her had placed their things, she had a revelation. “I was like, Oh, my God, they all slept in the same rooms,” she tells Vanity Fair. “It’s so peculiar. I mean, not to sound perverse, but I was like, Oh, my God, imagine if these White House walls could talk.”
That inkling of an idea eventually blossomed into The First Lady, a new anthology series at Showtime that aims to reveal the journeys of some of America’s most formidable first ladies and how they are, in some ways, all connected. The first season, directed by Susanne Bier and debuting on Showtime on April 17, follows Michelle Obama, Betty Ford, and Eleanor Roosevelt as each of them navigates their place in the White House and in history. The show captures Roosevelt’s challenges with her husband’s health and also her desire to have a more proactive role in politics; Ford’s struggles with alcoholism and life within the White House walls; and Obama’s concerns for the safety of her family but also her determination to help other families while in her role as first lady.
Not only does the series capture three iconic women, but three of Hollywood’s most talented actors dove in to play them. Viola Davis plays Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Ford, and Gillian Anderson portrays Roosevelt. “We really wanted to focus our choices on who we felt as an actress would best embody the ladies, and we focused less on ‘do they look like the ladies?’ because that became very distracting as a notion,” says Schulman, who is the showrunner of the series.
“They all brought an incredible strength and incredible honesty,” says Bier, whose previous work includes Bird Box and HBO’s The Undoing, adding that each actor brought a unique style to their performance. “Michelle Pfeiffer brought so much sense of humor and elegance. And then Viola brought this crazy depth,” she says. “And then you had Gillian who was so secretive and magnetic and really strong and vulnerable at the same time.”
But once the leads had been cast, Schulman and Bier also had to cast actors to play the three women in their early years. These three rising stars—Jayme Lawson, who most recently appeared in The Batman, plays Obama; Kristine Froseth, from Looking for Alaska, plays Ford; and Eliza Scanlen, known for starring in Sharp Objects and Little Women, plays Roosevelt—help the show to explore how each woman found the path that would eventually lead her to the White House. The pairings, which can be seen in Vanity Fair’s exclusive first-look images, “had to be more about appearance, but we still wanted to make an energetic kind of connectivity,” says Schulman.
Bier agrees that it wasn’t as much about similarities in appearance, but “more in spirit. There are certain mannerisms—the certain way you walk, the way you blink an eye, or certain other things—that we might not think that much about, but that was sort of filtered into both the younger [version] and the actual first lady.”
As for the rest of the cast, Bier estimates she saw around 4,000 audition tapes to cast the whole series, which features 500 extras and a supporting cast that includes Aaron Eckhart, Dakota Fanning, Kiefer Sutherland, Judy Greer, and O-T Fagbenle. The scope of the series was akin to three feature films, with each first lady’s story filmed consecutively and then all of them mixed together in editing. While the stories were all different, and the women were living in very different periods of American history, both Bier and Schulman say there was connective tissue between their stories. “The whole point was to always sort of finish one sentence with another character’s sentence, but sometimes you’re looking for similarities and sometimes you’re looking for quite the opposite to make a point,” says Schulman.
It’s never easy to make a project that is based on real people, especially when they’re people who are so familiar to the public. The show features conversations between the first ladies and their husbands that happened in the privacy of their homes and reveal some of the trepidations each woman may have had about coming into the White House. While Schulman and Bier did tireless research to find out as much as they could about these three first ladies’ stories, as Bier puts it, “it is a piece of fiction built on reality, but it’s definitely fiction.”
I added to the gallery more episodic stills of Viola Davis as Michelle Obama in The First Lady.
The gallery has been updated with HQ photos of Viola Davis at the eBay & GBK Brand Bar Pre-Oscar Luxury Lounge. Enjoy!