She's the first Black actor to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting, having received an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony for her performances. Ladies and gents, raise a toast to the irrepressible, insanely talented Viola Davis.
How You Know Her
She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her devastating portrayal of the long-suffering wife of Denzel Washington's character in the big screen adaptation of August Wilson's "Fences" (roles both had played previously on Broadway).
She's currently turning heads as the larger-than-life lead character in another adaptation of Wilson's work (this time produced by Denzel Washington, and co-starring the late, irreplaceable Chadwick Boseman), "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Our bets are on her earning another Oscar nomination.
She's also been nominated for Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress for 2008's "Doubt" and Best Actress for 2011's "The Help."
Besides earning a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for "How to Get Away with Murder in 2015, she won Tony Awards for her stage work as Best Featured Actress for "King Hedley II" and Best Leading Actress for "Fences."
Their Life So Far
None of it came easy for Davis. She grew up in poverty in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Arts was a respite from the hardship. At Central Falls High School, she became involved in the drama department, and went on to study drama at Rhode Island College. After graduation, she spent four more years honing her craft at the Julliard School.
By the '90s, Davis alternated work on the stage and the small screen, and bit parts in big screen projects. In 1998, a small role in Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight" led to future collaborations with the director on "Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven," and "Solaris." Other notable films included Todd Haynes' "Far from Heaven" and Denzel's "Antwone Fisher."
In 2008's "Doubt," Davis would go toe to toe with Meryl Streep in a searing, unforgettable scene that was a highlight of the film, and led to an Oscar nomination. She would become close friends with Streep, who would later give the speech at Davis' induction on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Beyond her continuing work on the stage, a lead role on tv's "How to Get Away with Murder" and her Oscar win for "Fences," Davis has continued to impress with strong movie performances including her main character in Steve McQueen's crime thriller "Widows." We're also partial to her sci-fi turn opposite George Clooney in the James Cameron-produced, Soderbergh-directed "Solaris." Davis and Clooney would collaborate once more in the critically acclaimed political drama "Syriana."
The Movie to Watch
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is a potent showcase for Viola Davis, playing the title character in all her legendary singing, performing and rabble-rousing glory. The movie, directed by George C. Wolfe, produced by Denzel Washington, and adapted from the August Wilson play, does an amazing job of showing the energy of blues legend Ma Rainey and her band, and the racism they face in the 1920s to overcome their conditions. Chadwick Boseman, as Rainey's deeply flawed trumpeter, is the other major character, and the actor gives a heartbreaking performance in his final role. It's a great movie, one of the best of 2020, and should be warmly received come Oscars time.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Drama / 2020 / R
Tensions rise when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927.
What's Up Next
Davis is set to return to the land of superheroes, reprising her "Suicide Squad" role of Amanda Waller in the sequel, "The Suicide Squad," headed to theaters on August 6, 2021. She's also set to co-star with Sandra Bullock in an untitled drama directed by Nora Fingscheidt – about a woman (Bullock) attempting to rebuild her life after serving time for a violent crime.
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