One of Brown’s possible Lecture Board speakers for Spring 2016 is Viola Davis, and if you don’t know who she is, where have you been? Have you seen her daughter’s amazing Viola Davis Halloween costume?
Davis is an American Actress known for her starring roles in The Help and Shonda Rhimes’ hit show How to Get Away with Murder. She’s accumulated quite a few awards over the years: she won a Tony award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Tonya in King Hedley II and for Best Actress in a Play for Fences, along with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance as Aibileen Clark in The Help and a nod for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 2008’s Doubt.
Most notably, she was the first African American woman to receive an Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series, which she won for her role in How to Get Away with Murder. She has spoken out about the opportunities for women of color in the media, and her Emmy win has come to symbolize a significant moment for diversity in Hollywood. In 2012, Time named her one of their 100 Most Influential People.
Despite all of her success, Davis did not have an easy rise to fame. She grew up in an impoverished family in South Carolina, and later Rhode Island, with five other siblings, one of which she did not even meet until she was five years old because her family did not have enough money to raise all of their children in the same household. Davis began acting in high school, and continued while she attended Rhode Island College (shout-out to Prov!) where she majored in theater. She then went on to attend the Juilliard School of Performing Arts.
Davis played small roles on Broadway and TV for many years before getting larger roles on Broadway. In 2008, she got her big break opposite Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt. From there her career skyrocketed, and she started playing star-making roles in movies like The Help in 2011. Some of her other movies include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and Get on Up. Now, she is still starring in How to Get Away with Murder, and her upcoming movie, the highly anticipated Suicide Squad, comes out next year.
Don’t forget to vote for Viola and for the other Lecture Board speaker candidates here!