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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 schools Drama Division Group 22, and while there, she starred in her first professional stage role in an Off-Broadway production of William ShakespearesAs You Like Itas Denis at the Delacorte Theatre. In 1996, Viola made her Broadway debut originating the role of Vera Dotson inSeven Guitarsalongside Keith David, receiving praise for her performance and a Tony Award nomination.

Viola made her film debut playing a Nurse in the dramaThe Substance of Fire, which starred Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Hutton. She would also make appearances on the television showsNYPD BlueandNew York Undercoveras Mrs. Stapleton. Viola continued to perform on stage inGods Heartas Eleanor,Defying GravityandPericlesin multiple roles. She also appeared in HBOsThe Pentagon Warsas Sergeant Fanning, starring Kelsey Grammer, in 1998. Her next role would be the one of Moselle in the crime dramaOut 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 movieGrace & Glorieas Rosemary Albright before starring as Sharon Hughes in the adventure filmMiss Apprehension and Squirt. Viola returned to the stage in 1999 forA Raisin in the Sun,Everybodys Ruby, as well asThe Vagina Monologues. Back to film, she next portrayed the Social Worker in Steven Soderberghs crime dramaTraffic, 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 ofOceans Eleven, which also starred George Clooney.

Later in the year, Viola appeared in an episode ofJudging Amyas Celeste before serving her first recurring television role as Nurse Lynnette Peeler onCity of Angels. She returned to stage in 2001 playing Tonya inKing Hedley IIat the The Kennedy Center before it moved to the Virginia Theatre on Broadway. While on stage, Viola made appearances onProvidence,The Guardian, andThird Watchthroughout the year. She also played in the television movieAmy & Isabelleas Dottie. Viola played the role of Robin in the romantic comedyThe Shrink Is In, starring Courteney Cox and David Arquette. She would next play the Policewoman inKate & 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 onLaw & Order: Criminal Intent,The DivisionandCSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She played Sybil in the Julianne Moore-led romantic dramaFar from Heavenbefore portraying Eva May inAntwone 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 Clooneys filmSolarisas Gordon, which earned her a Black Reel Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Violas final project in 2002 came in the television movieFather Lefty, which was written by Sylvester Stallone. Viola served as a co-executive producer for the short filmDriving Fishthat same year. The next one, she appeared onHackas Stevie Morgan and Aisha Crenshaw onThe Practice, as well as a recurring role onLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2004, Viola landed her next recurring role onCentury Cityplaying Hannah Crane, while she returned to the stage once more to step intoIntimate Apparelas Esther. The following year began with the television movieJesse Stone: Stone Cold, where she played the role of Molly Crane, followed by an appearance as Victoria Rossi on the television showThreshold.

Viola next played Grandma in 50 Cents biographical dramaGet 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 inSyrianabefore reprising her role as Molly Crane in the next two installments ofJesse Stone. In 2006, she starred alongside Anthony LaPaglia and Isabella Rossellini as Tonya Neely inThe Architect. Viola even appeared as the Mother in the hospital in Oliver StonesWorld 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 onWithout A Traceas Audrey Williams andLaws of Chanceas Rebecca. Viola even starred alongside Fantasia and Loretta Devine in the biographical dramaLife Is Not a Fiarytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story.

In 2007, Viola portrayed Detective Parker in the thrillerDisturbia, starring Shia LaBeouf before reprising her role as Molly Crane once more forJesse Stone: Sea change. Later that year, she would play the role of Agent Jan Marlow on the short-lived seriesTraveler, 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 dramaFort Pit, starring James Badge Dale. The next year, Viola made an appearance on the dramaBrothers & Sistersas Ellen Snyder before a small recurring role as Dr. Charlene Barton on the mini-seriesThe Andromeda Strain. She next would appear in the romantic dramaNights in Rodantheas Jean. The year ended by playing Mrs. Miller in the film adaption of the Broadway playDoubtalongside 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 isnt 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 inMadea Goes to Jailbefore playing Dr. Judith Franklin inState of Playstarring Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren. She next played the Mayor inLaw 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 familys killers free. Viola would voice the character of the Arenal worker Hortense Johnson in the short filmBeyond All Boundaries. In June, Viola was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Viola returned to the stage to portray Rose in August WilsonsFences, 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 Codys television seriesUnited States of Taraas Lynda P. Frazier. She would follow that up as Director George inKnight and Day, the action film starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Viola next portray Delia Shiraz inEat Pray Love, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Black Reel Awards, followed by the romantic comedyIts Kind of a Funny Storyas Dr. Eden Minerva. Next, Viola lent her voice for the English version of the animated crime dramaChico & Rita, as well as serving as the narrator for the short filmThe Unforgiving Minute. Her final project of 2010 came as Gail Friedman in David Schwimmers crime dramaTrust. The film follows a teenage girl who is targeted by an online sexual predator. The next year began withThe Helpwhere 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 filmTouch of Evilbefore portraying Abby Black inExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Violas lone project in 2012 came in the dramaWont Back Downwhere 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 Films Crystal Award

On June 12th, she was presented with the Women in Films Crystal Award by her friend, Meryl Streep. The next year began with the fantasy romanceBeautiful Creatureswhere she played the role of Amma, followed by an appearance onSofia the Firstas Helen Hanshaw. Viola continued on to play Nancy Birch opposite Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal inPrisoners, a crime drama following a mans determination to find his daughter and her friend after theyve gone missing. She would also appear in the film adaption of Orson Scott Cards fantasyEnders Gameas Major Gwyn Anderson. Viola next portrayed Professor Lillian Friedman in three installments ofThe Disappearance of Eleanor RigbytitledHim,Her, andThem.

How to get away with murder

In 2014, she stepped into the role of Susie Brown for the James Brown biographical dramaGet 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 seriesHow 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 thrillerBlackhatas 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 inLila & Eve, a crime thriller following two distraught mothers team up to avenge their childrens deaths after local authorities fail to take action. The next year, Viola starred as Martha Schulman in the television movieCustody, also starring Hayden Panettiere and Ellen Burstyn. She next joined the DC universe as Amanda Waller inSuicide Squad, followed closely by reprising her role as Rose Maxson for the film adaption ofFencesalongside 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 inFences. On January 6, 2017, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; at the ceremony, she stated: its 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 seriesAmerican Koko, which follows Koko investigating and solving racial situations in a post-racial America.

The next year, Viola starred alongside Michelle Rodriguez for Steve McQueens crime dramaWidowsas 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 comedyTroop Zero, starring Mckenna Grace. Viola next starred as Ma Rainey opposite Chadwick Boseman inMa Raineys 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.

Violas upcoming projects includeThe 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 movieOperation: Othello, which premiered at Cannes in 2019. The film is a futuristic adaption of William ShakespearesOthello set in the world of an elite naval special forces 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 DOnorfrio and is currently in post-production.

She will also star in the dramaThe 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 titledThe 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 maters theatre program in Central Falls. Since 2014, Viola has been collaborating with theHunger Iscampaign 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.

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