Oscar Actors: Davis, Viola–Background, Career, Awards; Cumulative Advantage

Viola Davis was born August 11, 1965 in St. Matthews, South Carolina.

Social class: Lower; father horse trainer; mother maid and factory worker

Formal Education Rhode Island College (BA)

Training: Juilliard School (Diploma), 1993; age 28

Oscar Awards: Supp. Actress, Fences, 2006; age 51

Oscar Nominations: 3 (including win). First nom for Doubts, in 2008; age 43.

Other Awards: 2 Tonys (2010; 2014); Emmy

First Award: Theater, Obie Award, 1999; age 34

Home town: Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Marriages: Julius Tennon (m. 2003)

Having won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the first black thespian 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.

Born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Davis began her acting career in Central Falls, Rhode Island, starring in minor theater productions.

The daughter of Mary Alice (née Logan) and Dan Davis, she 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, an activist during the civil rights movement, was arrested and taken to jail with Viola, when she was two.  She has described herself as having “lived in abject poverty and dysfunction” during her childhood, living in “rat-infested and condemned” apartments.

Davis is a cousin of actor Mike Colter, known for portraying the Marvel Comics character Luke Cage.

After graduating from the Juilliard School in 1993, she won an Obie Award in 1999 for her performance as Ruby McCollum in “Everybody’s Ruby.”

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 August Wilson’s “King Hedley II” in 2001.

Davis’s film breakthrough came in 2008, when her role as a troubled mother in Doubt earned her a nomination for the 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 revival of August Wilson’s play Fences.

For starring as a 1960s housemaid in the comedy-drama “The Help” (2011), Davis received a Best Actress Oscar nomination (Meryl Streep won) and won the SAG Award.

In 2014, Davis began playing lawyer Annalise Keating in the ABC television drama series “How to Get Away with Murder.”  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 played Amanda Waller in the superhero film Suicide Squad and reprised the role of Maxson in the film adaptation of Fences, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

She received a BAFTA nomination for starring in the heist film Widows (2018).

Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, are founders of a production company, JuVee Productions.

Davis is also widely recognized for her advocacy and support of human rights and equal rights for women and women of color. She identifies as a feminist.