Date and Place of Birth
August 11, 1965
Saint Matthews, South Carolina, USA
001. Biography (below)
003. Personal Quotes
005. Official Twitter
006. Official Instagram
007. Official Facebook
Viola’s graduation from Juilliard
photo from People
Viola Davis was born on August 11, 1965 in St. Matthews, South Carolina to Mary Alice Logan and Dan Davis, the second youngest of six children. When she was two-months old, her parents and most of her siblings moved from the then-Singleton Plantation to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where her father worked as a horse trainer and groomer, and her mother was a maid, factory worker, and civil rights activist; one of her sisters and her brother stayed in South Carolina with their grandparents. Viola attended Central Falls High School, where she found a passion for acting and was involved in the federal TRIO Upward Bound and TRIP Student Support Service programs. She studied theater at Rhode Island College and participated in the National Student Exchange. Viola graduated in 1988, then moved on to Juilliard School for four years, where she was a member of the school’s Drama Division “Group 22”, and while there, she starred in her first professional stage role in an Off-Broadway production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It as Denis at the Delacorte Theatre. In 1996, Viola made her Broadway debut originating the role of Vera Dotson in Seven Guitars alongside Keith David, receiving praise for her performance and a Tony Award nomination.
Seven Guitars (1996)
Viola made her film debut playing a Nurse in the drama The Substance of Fire, which starred Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Hutton. She would also make appearances on the television shows NYPD Blue and New York Undercover as Mrs. Stapleton. Viola continued to perform on stage in God’s Heart as Eleanor, Defying Gravity and Pericles in multiple roles. She also appeared in HBO’s The Pentagon Wars as Sergeant Fanning, starring Kelsey Grammer, in 1998. Her next role would be the one of Moselle in the crime drama Out of Sight, the Steven Soderbergh film following a career bank robber breaking out of jail and sharing a moment of mutual attraction with a U.S. Marshall he kidnapped. She would later appear in the television movie Grace & Glorie as Rosemary Albright before starring as Sharon Hughes in the adventure film Miss Apprehension and Squirt. Viola returned to the stage in 1999 for A Raisin in the Sun, Everybody’s Ruby, as well as The Vagina Monologues. Back to film, she next portrayed the Social Worker in Steven Soderbergh’s crime drama Traffic, starring Michael Douglas and Benicio Del Toro. She also had the uncredited role of the voice of the parole board interrogator who questions Danny Ocean in the opening scene of Ocean’s Eleven, which also starred George Clooney.
Judging Amy (2000)
Later in the year, Viola appeared in an episode of Judging Amy as Celeste before serving her first recurring television role as Nurse Lynnette Peeler on City of Angels. She returned to stage in 2001 playing Tonya in King Hedley II at the The Kennedy Center before it moved to the Virginia Theatre on Broadway. While on stage, Viola made appearances on Providence, The Guardian, and Third Watch throughout the year. She also played in the television movie Amy & Isabelle as Dottie. Viola played the role of Robin in the romantic comedy The Shrink Is In, starring Courteney Cox and David Arquette. She would next play the Policewoman in Kate & Leopold, a romantic comedy following an English Duke from 1876 being dragged to modern day New York where he falls for an advertising executive.
In 2002, Viola made television appearances on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Division and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She played Sybil in the Julianne Moore-led romantic drama Far from Heaven before portraying Eva May in Antwone Fisher, starring Denzel Washington and Derek Luke, for which role she got an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female. She would also appear in George Clooney’s film Solaris as Gordon, which earned her a Black Reel Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Viola’s final project in 2002 came in the television movie Father Lefty, which was written by Sylvester Stallone. Viola served as a co-executive producer for the short film Driving Fish that same year. The next one, she appeared on Hack as Stevie Morgan and Aisha Crenshaw on The Practice, as well as a recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2004, Viola landed her next recurring role on Century City playing Hannah Crane, while she returned to the stage once more to step into Intimate Apparel as Esther. The following year began with the television movie Jesse Stone: Stone Cold, where she played the role of Molly Crane, followed by an appearance as Victoria Rossi on the television show Threshold.
Viola next played Grandma in 50 Cent’s biographical drama Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the film follows an inner city drug dealer who turns away from crime to pursue his passion of rap music. Next, Viola had an uncredited role as the CIA Chairwoman in Syriana before reprising her role as Molly Crane in the next two installments of Jesse Stone. In 2006, she starred alongside Anthony LaPaglia and Isabella Rossellini as Tonya Neely in The Architect. Viola even appeared as the Mother in the hospital in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, a historical drama circling around two Port Authority police officers who become trapped underneath the rubble of the World Trade Center. The same year, she made television appearances on Without A Trace as Audrey Williams and Laws of Chance as Rebecca. Viola even starred alongside Fantasia and Loretta Devine in the biographical drama Life Is Not a Fiarytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story.
Nights In Rodanthe (2008)
In 2007, Viola portrayed Detective Parker in the thriller Disturbia, starring Shia LaBeouf before reprising her role as Molly Crane once more for Jesse Stone: Sea change. Later that year, she would play the role of Agent Jan Marlow on the short-lived series Traveler, following two individuals who find themselves hunted by the FBI after a bombing of a museum.
She would also appear in a television movie crime drama Fort Pit, starring James Badge Dale. The next year, Viola made an appearance on the drama Brothers & Sisters as Ellen Snyder before a small recurring role as Dr. Charlene Barton on the mini-series The Andromeda Strain. She next would appear in the romantic drama Nights in Rodanthe as Jean. The year ended by playing Mrs. Miller in the film adaption of the Broadway play Doubt alongside Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Though she only had one scene, Viola was a highlight in the film; noted by Roger Ebert, her scene “is the emotional heart and soul of “Doubt,” and if Viola Davis isn’t nominated by the Academy, an injustice will have been done.” Thankfully, she was nominated for several awards for her performance, including a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. 2009 began with Viola portraying Ellen in Madea Goes to Jail before playing Dr. Judith Franklin in State of Play starring Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren. She next played the Mayor in Law Abiding Citizen, a film about a frustrated man who decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of this family’s killers free. Viola would voice the character of the Arenal worker Hortense Johnson in the short film Beyond All Boundaries. In June, Viola was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Won’t Back Down (2011)
Viola returned to the stage to portray Rose in August Wilson’s Fences, following a former Negro League baseball star (Denzel Washington) now scraping by as a sanitation worker, playing from April 26th – July 11th at the Cort Theatre and which earned her a second Tony Award. She would spend six episodes of season two of Diablo Cody’s television series United States of Tara as Lynda P. Frazier. She would follow that up as Director George in Knight and Day, the action film starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Viola next portray Delia Shiraz in Eat Pray Love, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Black Reel Awards, followed by the romantic comedy It’s Kind of a Funny Story as Dr. Eden Minerva. Next, Viola lent her voice for the English version of the animated crime drama Chico & Rita, as well as serving as the narrator for the short film The Unforgiving Minute. Her final project of 2010 came as Gail Friedman in David Schwimmer’s crime drama Trust. The film follows a teenage girl who is targeted by an online sexual predator. The next year began with The Help where Viola portrayed Aibileen Clark and earned two Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award nominations. She would next play the Vengeful Caretaker in the short film Touch of Evil before portraying Abby Black in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Viola’s lone project in 2012 came in the drama Won’t Back Down where she portrayed Nona Alberts, alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter. Her performance earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Black Reel Awards and the Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture award at the NAACP Image Awards.
Women in Film’s Crystal Award
On June 12th, she was presented with the Women in Film’s Crystal Award by her friend, Meryl Streep. The next year began with the fantasy romance Beautiful Creatures where she played the role of Amma, followed by an appearance on Sofia the First as Helen Hanshaw. Viola continued on to play Nancy Birch opposite Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners, a crime drama following a man’s determination to find his daughter and her friend after they’ve gone missing. She would also appear in the film adaption of Orson Scott Card’s fantasy Ender’s Game as Major Gwyn Anderson. Viola next portrayed Professor Lillian Friedman in three installments of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby titled Him, Her, and Them.
How to get away with murder
In 2014, she stepped into the role of Susie Brown for the James Brown biographical drama Get on Up. Viola earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her performance. Later that year, she landed the lead role in Shonda Rhimes’ television series How to Get Away With Murder, playing criminal defense attorney and law school professor Annalise Keating. Viola won a Primetime Emmy Award, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance, along with two Golden Globe and countless other nominations and wins throughout the series. 2015 began with starring opposite Chris Hemsworth in the crime thriller Blackhat as Carol Barrett. The film follows a furloughed convict and his partners hunting a high-level cybercrime network around the world. She would next star alongside Jennifer Lopez as Lila in Lila & Eve, a crime thriller following two distraught mothers team up to avenge their children’s deaths after local authorities fail to take action. The next year, Viola starred as Martha Schulman in the television movie Custody, also starring Hayden Panettiere and Ellen Burstyn. She next joined the DC universe as Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad, followed closely by reprising her role as Rose Maxson for the film adaption of Fences alongside Denzel Washington.
Viola earned a BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Fences. On January 6, 2017, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; at the ceremony, she stated: “it’s like my life flashing before my eyes, and all I can say is, God has blessed my life in abundance.” In March, Viola was awarded the Artist of the Year Award at Harvard University. Later in the year, she served as the narrator for the television series American Koko, which follows Koko investigating and solving racial situations in a post-racial America.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)
The next year, Viola starred alongside Michelle Rodriguez for Steve McQueen’s crime drama Widows as Veronica, who is one of four women taking fate into their own hands to forge a future on their own terms after their husbands are murdered. In 2019, she portrayed Miss Rayleen in the Prime Video family comedy Troop Zero, starring Mckenna Grace. Viola next starred as Ma Rainey opposite Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. She was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes, as well as Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Hollywood Walk of Fame (Jan. 2017)
Viola’s upcoming projects include The Suicide Squad, where she will reprise her role as Amanda Waller, which is currently set for a theatrical release on August 6, 2021. She will also serve as the narrator for the television movie Operation: Othello, which premiered at Cannes in 2019. The film is a futuristic adaption of William Shakespeare’s Othello set in the world of an elite naval special force’s unit.Viola is also a part of an Untitled Sandra Bullock project, following a woman released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime and re-entering a society that refuses to forgive her past. The film stars Sandra Bullock and Vincent D’Onorfrio and is currently is post-production.
With husband & daughter (2020)
She will also star in the drama The Woman King, which is currently in the pre-production process. And it has been announced that Viola will portray Michelle Obama in a television series titled The First Lady, as well as Harriet Tubman in an Untitled Harriet Tubman project.
To help prevent the closure of her hometown public library, due to lack of city funding, Viola donated funds to it, as well as to her alma mater’s theatre program in Central Falls. Since 2014, Viola has been collaborating with the Hunger Is campaign to help eradicate childhood hunger across the country. In 2017, she started the $30k in 30 Days Project with Hunger Is, awarding a $1,000 grant to the Rhode Island Community food bank in her home state. She attended the groundbreaking of a free community health center in her hometown of Central Falls that was sponsored by the Vaseline Healing Project. The project provides dermatological care to help heal the skin of those affected by poverty around the world.
Viola currently resides in California with her huband, actor and producer Julius Tennon and their adopted daughter Genesis. She also is the stepmother to Julius’ two children from his first marriage.