To “give someone their flowers” is an expression that means to show someone that you love, appreciate and cherish them. So often, we honor great talents after they transition rather than showering them with praise while they still grace Earth. Viola Davis is a phenomenal film, television, and theatre actress who has received critical acclaim for her performances. Viola Davis’ accomplishments on the big screen as well as her generous philanthropic efforts warrant praise and recognition now rather than when all of her work is just a distant memory.
Davis was born on August 11, 1965, in the town of Saint Matthews, South Carolina. However, when Davis was two months old, her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where she spent the rest of her childhood. Her father was a horse groomer; her mother worked in factories and performed various domestic jobs. Having grown up in poverty, Davis used movies and performing to escape her reality. Her love for performing blossomed, and she began acting in plays at school and in theatre competitions. Davis attended Rhode Island College and graduated in 1988 with a major in theatre. Afterward, she moved to New York to continue her studies at Juilliard School of the Performing Arts, where she graduated in 1994.
Davis’s Broadway debut was in 1996, in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, in which she played the secret lover of a musician who was just released from prison. This performance earned her a Tony Award nomination. Later that year, she made her film debut in the drama The Substance of Fire. She continued to work consistently in films and theatre, finally receiving a recurring role in 2000 as a nurse in the medical drama City of Angels. In 2001 Davis earned her first Tony award with her performance in King Hedley II.
Viola Davis married Julius Tennon, whom she first met on City of Angels in 2003. The two have an adoptive daughter, Genesis Tennon. Tennon is also her producing partner, and their production company, JuVee Productions, has acquired several awards in theatre, television, and film.
In 2010, Davis starred alongside Denzel Washington in the revival of August Wilson’s play Fences and ultimately won her second Tony award for her portrayal of Rose. On June 30th, 2009, Davis was inducted into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
In 2016, Davis and Washington teamed up for the film adaptation of Fences. This performance earned her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. In 2014, Viola Davis began her work as Annalise Keating in ABC’s, How to Get Away with Murder. She made history during her time in this role, as the show features a scene where she removes her wig, false eyelashes, and makeup. This role earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance as a Female Actor in a Drama Series. Davis was the first African-American woman to win this award and continued her role for a total of six seasons.
Viola spoke of her love of portraying “ordinary people and their human experience” in her 2017 Academy award acceptance speech. However, she is drawn to meaningful roles that aren’t necessarily glamorous. She said, “…Black women now have no choice but to take matters in their own hands and create images for ourselves…It’s up to us to look for the material…produce it ourselves…choose the stories.”
Viola Davis is one of 10 African-American actresses to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role and one of two African-American actresses to be nominated for an Academy Award for both the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories. In addition, she is the first Black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy, and a Tony Award for acting. Her most recent role Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), earned her an Oscar Nomination and a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. Viola Davis has garnered acclaim for her performances and has worked in various genres such as comedy, drama, and even thriller.
In addition to being an exceptional performer, she is also a philanthropist and supports a variety of charities and causes. Davis is an avid supporter of the “Hunger Is” campaign, whose focus is raising awareness about hunger in America. She joined forces with “No Kid Hungry” in 2020 as their national spokesperson. This cause is near and dear to her heart due to her impoverished upbringing.
Viola Davis is a groundbreaking actress, philanthropist, and advocate for opportunities for women of color. She puts her all into every character and leaves a piece of herself in every performance. Check out her latest project, a historical drama titled, The Woman King.
Biography.com, Viola Davis
Dominique Williams, Give Them Their Flowers While They are Living
IMDB.com, Viola Davis
Richard Pallardy, Viola Davis- American actress