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Wed, 08.11.1965

Viola Davis, Actress, and Producer born

Viola Davis

*Viola Davis was born on this date in 1965. She is a Black actress and producer.

Viola Davis was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina. She is the daughter of Mary Alice (née Logan) and Dan Davis and was born on her grandmother's farm on the Singleton Plantation. Her father was a horse trainer, and her mother was a maid, factory worker, and homemaker. She is the second youngest of six children, having four sisters and a brother. Two months after she was born, her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, with Davis and two of her sisters, leaving her older sister and brother with her grandparents.

Her mother was also an activist during the 20th century American Civil Rights Movement. At age two, Davis was taken to jail with her mother after she was arrested during a civil rights protest. She has described herself as having "lived in abject poverty and dysfunction" during her childhood, recalling living in "rat-infested and condemned" apartments. Davis is a second cousin of actor Mike Colter, known for portraying the Marvel Comics character, Luke Cage. Davis attended Central Falls High School, the alma mater to which she partially credits her love of stage acting with her involvement in the arts.

As a teen, she was involved in the federal TRIO Upward Bound and TRIO Student Support Services programs. While enrolled at the Young People's School for the Performing Arts in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Davis's talent was recognized by a director at the program, Bernard Masterson. After graduating from high school, Davis studied at Rhode Island College, majoring in theater and participating in the National Student Exchange before graduating in 1988. Next, she attended the Juilliard School for four years and was a member of the school's Drama Division "Group 22" (1989–93).

In 1992, Davis starred in her first professional stage role, an off-Broadway production of William Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It as Denis alongside Elizabeth McGovern at the Delacorte Theatre. In 1996, Davis made her Broadway debut in the original Broadway production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars as the Vera, alongside Keith David. The play opened on Broadway on March 6 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She earned critical praise for her performance. That same year, Davis received her Screen Actors Guild card in 1996 for doing one day of work, playing a nurse who passes a vial of blood in the film The Substance of Fire (1996). She was paid $52800.

Davis continued acting off-Broadway in various productions and appeared in bit parts on television including episodes of NYPD Blue (1996), and New York Undercover (1996). She also appeared in the HBO television military comedy film, The Pentagon Wars (1996). In 1998, she played a small role in the crime comedy film Out of Sight (1999). She played minor roles in several films and television series in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Tonya in the 2001 Broadway production of August Wilson's King Hedley II.

Davis married actor Julius Tennon in June 2002. In 2011, the couple adopted an infant daughter. Davis is also a stepmother to Tennon's children from previous relationships. She and her husband are founders of a production company, JuVee Productions. Davis is also recognized for her advocacy and support of human rights and equal rights for women and non-white women.

Davis's film breakthrough came in 2008 when her role as a troubled mother in the film Doubt earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Greater success came to Davis in the 2010s. She won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for playing Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's play Fences. In 2014, Davis began playing lawyer Annalise Keating in the ABC television drama series How to Get Away with Murder, and in 2015, she became the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

In 2016, Davis reprised the role of Maxson in the film adaptation of Fences, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Having won an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the first Black to achieve the "Triple Crown of Acting". Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2017. In 2017 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2020, The New York Times ranked Davis ninth on its list of "The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century".


In 2011, Davis donated funds to her hometown public library in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to assist in preventing its closure due to a lack of city funding. Since 2014, Davis has collaborated with the Hunger Is campaign to help eradicate childhood hunger across America. Speaking on her work, Davis said that "seventeen million kids in this country, so one in five kids in this country, go to bed hungry. I was one of those kids because I grew up in abject poverty; I did everything that you could possibly imagine getting food: I rummaged in the garbage cans, I stole from the local store constantly."  As an honoree at the 2014 Variety Power of Women luncheon, Davis further commented that "the thing that made me join...was the word 'eradicate', 'get rid of' - not by thirty percent not by twenty percent not by fifty percent, but to do away [with it]. Because everyone should be a child and should grow up and have a chance at the American dream".

In September 2017, Davis 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. As part of her partnership with Vaseline to promote the Vaseline Healing Project, Davis attended the groundbreaking of a free community health center in Central Falls, Rhode Island in October 2016 that was sponsored by the project. The project provides dermatological care to help heal the skin of those affected by poverty around the world. She was also a speaker at the 2018 Women's March event in Los Angeles. In 2018, Davis donated funds to her alma mater, Central Falls High School, for its theater program.

In 2020, Davis served as an executive producer and appeared in the documentary film Giving Voice, following students entering the August Wilson monologue competition for a chance to compete on Broadway. That same year, Davis starred in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom as the titular character based upon the play of the same name. Also in 2020, it was announced that Davis would play former First Lady Michelle Obama in a new one-hour drama series called First Ladies for Showtime, as well as serving as executive producer. Davis regularly attends services at Oasis Church in Los Angeles.

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