All Articles Tagged "Viola Davis"
I don’t know about you Shondaland fans but for me, “How To Get Away With Murder” has taken the number one spot in my heart. Kind of like the way “Scandal” became more of priority than “Grey’s Anatomy.” (I’m back Grey’s don’t worry.) The show is great. With stellar acting and story lines that keep us on the edge of our seats, it is must-watch television. And since the show has become such a hit, we figured it was only right that the highlight some of the little known behind the scenes information from the show and its actors who portray these compelling characters.
Check it out.
As many episodes of “Law & Order” as there have been, along with the spin-offs over the years, I can understand why trying to get a role on the shows was and still is the thing to do as a burgeoning actor. Even if you’re not a major character (aka, victim, criminal or attorney), you can still get a check from playing something small (a witness, someone who knows the whereabouts of a criminal, the dead body found in the beginning of the show). So many actors and actresses got their start on the show, along with “Criminal Intent” and “Special Victims Unit,” or appeared on it before hitting it big, and we’ve found some of the black ones here:
Samuel L. Jackson
By 1991, Samuel L. Jackson had been in quite a few movies already, even if his parts were small (including Do The Right Thing and Coming To America). In an attempt to build up his resume, Jackson nabbed a role on “Law & Order” in season one as attorney Louis Taggert. He represented a young man (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his first on-screen role) accused of participating in the gang rape of a TV reporter.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Viola Davis is nothing like her character on “How To Get Away With Murder.” And in a recent interview with The Huffington Post, she explained why.
“Annalise Keating is all over the place. I’m concerned with my health. She just wants power. She wears a heavy duty mask every day, which must be exhausting. I couldn’t do it.”
While her character is certainly flawed, she represents a shift, an achievement in television for Black women.
“She redefined us as something bold and strong. We’re no longer supporting, we’re not necessarily nurturing, we’re not asexual. We’re none of it. And Shonda doesn’t apologize or make a big deal of it. So the viewer simply forgets, and we can all get on with the story.”
And a crucial part of Annalise’s story came when she needed to remove her mask, (the makeup) and wig to confront him about his discretions. It was a moment that resonated with the audience, particularly Black women.
It was Viola’s idea, actually.
“I pushed for that to happen. I said, ‘she’s not going to bed with her wig on.’ It could be powerful and liberating, but she’s got to take her wig off. Because who Annalise is in public is a big, fat lie and we have to see her taking off the armor, which is so thick, it becomes all the more dramatic when she removes it, and you see all the pain.”
Though she pushed for it, Viola still felt exposed when the time came to follow through.
“I did fell vulnerable but still not as vulnerable doing all the sex scenes. When I know members of my family are going to be watching.”
Sex scenes and wig removing, all in a days work with Shonda Rhimes.
How To Get Away With Murder is the top new drama in the ratings this fall. In fact, it’s doing so well it’s topping Scandal.
Deadline adds that Black-Ish is the top new comedy for the season, demonstrating the power of a diverse cast. And there’s the success of a CBS show, Scorpion, which shows audiences are responding to programs that put a variety of actors from different backgrounds in lead roles.
In addition to race, Viola Davis, Annalise Keating on HTGAWM, also stands out for being older than the typical leading lady. (Though if you take a look at shows like American Horror Story: Freak Show and Carol’s character on The Walking Dead, you also see some diversity of age on television these days as well.)
“I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this… a woman of color, of a certain age and a certain hue,” said Davis.
My colleagues here are giving me a bit of the screw face for not being a tremendous fan of HTGAWM; Liv, Fitz, Jake and the Gladiators still put me on the edge of my seat. What are you watching these days?
I thought I had really sworn off ratchet reality TV, but something about seeing famous (or in some cases, semi-famous) Black women come together to create something piqued my interest enough to make me tune into “Hollywood Divas.” Featuring Paula Jai Parker, Golden Brooks, Countess Vaughn, Elise Neal and Lisa Wu, “Hollywood Divas” is a close sister-friend of “R&B Divas.” What I mean by that is, has-been or struggling celebrities of a certain craft come together to become relevant again, constantly listing their credits to validate their current staked claim (READ: struggle).
I’m not sure if I was wrong for expecting a bit more (this IS reality tv), but I was all kinds of confused and disappointed by the rollout of the episodes and the catty/shady behavior of the women on-screen. In my mind, if I’m a struggling actress trying to get my name on somebody’s marquee or credits, I’d come into a collaborative situation with my game face on and my pettiness tucked clean away.
These women don’t think like I do, apparently.
The first two episodes jumped off with tears, fake high-pitched greetings, half-hugs, shade and catty backhanded compliments. One thing that struck me in particular as crazy with a capital C is the fact that Golden Brooks, best known for her role as ‘Maya Wilkes’ on Mara Brock Akil’s groundbreaking show “Girlfriends,” spent every waking moment shading reality stars and blaming them for the reason that “theater-trained” actors with a “certain pedigree” couldn’t get work.
Um, you’re on a reality show now, boo.
She also stated that in order to get work nowadays, actors have to be active on social media with millions of followers. To say that I was annoyed and that I highly disagreed would be the understatement of the year. There are so many examples of actresses, BLACK actresses, who have made it – in RECENT years – based off of their talent and strategic choices in roles not their standing on social media.
Viola Davis, a newcomer to Twitter, gained acclaim because of her work in recent movies like The Help and now her incomparable work as the mysterious and driven Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder.” Her Twitter followers are climbing, but it’s not because she’s so active online. It’s her talent.
Though she boasts 1.8 million followers on Twitter, Kerry Washington was on the map before she ever became active on social networks. Having masterfully portrayed Ray Charles’s wife, a former Black Panther, Kay Amin, a slave woman and now political pistol Olivia Pope, she has garnered a fanbase. This fanbase comes not because of selfies and tweets, but because she has put in the work and taken on roles that align with her values and trajectory.
“Soul Food” actress, Nicole Ari Parker, spoke candidly at last year’s Woman Thou Art Loosed “Girl Talk” segment about hearing a thousand nos before hearing the yes’ that have helped her have success.
The bitterness and jealousy seen within the first few episodes of this show has left a bad taste in my mouth, but I’m still hoping for the best. We, as Black women, already have it tough without blaming one another for what we lack. There is room for all of us to shine, we just have to get in where we fit in and be resilient.
I’m hoping “Hollywood Divas” will eventually showcase strengthened friendships, uplifting creative projects, and a positive answer to the portrayal of Black women, but I won’t hold my breath. However, it’s still early, so we shall see…
La Truly is a writer, higher education professional, and young women’s empowerment enthusiast. She mixes her interest in social and cultural issues with her life experiences to encourage thought, discussion and positive change among young Women of Color. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleylatruly and check out her site: www.ashleyjh.com.
“I Have Jumped In Garbage Bins With Maggots For Food:” Viola Davis Reflects On Growing Up In Poverty
Oscar nominee Viola Davis was recently honored at Variety’s 2014 Power of Women Luncheon for her work with the Hunger Is campaign. During the event, the 49-year-old delivered an emotional speech where she discussed her heartbreaking childhood in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
“I didn’t join the Hunger Is campaign to save the world. I set out to save myself. You know, they say that you’re never too old to have a happy childhood. And although my childhood was filled with many happy memories, it was also spent in abject poverty. I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and I did everything to get food,” she shared.
The “How To Get Away With Murder” actress went on to reveal that things were so bad, she sometimes went through trash receptacles to locate her next meal.
“I’ve done everything to get food. I have stolen for food. I have jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood, who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame.”
Viola went on to shed light on how common food-poor households are in America and expressed that her goal is to eradicate childhood hunger.
“I always say that the little girl who is hungry is always with me,” she said in Variety’s cover story. “I feel like why not use any kind of power I have to serve. There’s a famous saying that ‘to serve is to love.’ I don’t want my tombstone to just say I was a series regular and Oscar nominee.”
Watch her emotional speech below.
“I Was So Desperate For People To Think I Was Beautiful”: Viola Davis Reveals She Wore Wigs For Years Because Of Alopecia
In an interview with Vulture, Viola Davis revealed something about herself that many people probably didn’t know. The reason the Academy Award nominated actress wore wigs so often for years was because she was dealing with the trauma of alopecia areata. The condition causes round patches of hair loss and can possibly lead to complete hair loss, a loss that usually occurs mainly from the scalp. Here’s what she had to say about not feeling comfortable at that time in her life, and eventually having the option of wearing a wig when she wants, as opposed to wearing it because she felt she had to.
When Davis was 28, she lost half her hair to alopecia areata. “I woke up one day and it looked like I had a Mohawk. Big splash of bald on the top of my head,” she says. “I was like, What is this? Until I found out it was stress related. That’s how I internalized it. I don’t do that anymore. My favorite saying in the world is, ‘The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.’ I am telling you, I have spent so much of my life not feeling comfortable in my skin. I am just so not there anymore.”
After that alopecia, she wore a wig everywhere. “I wore a wig in the Jacuzzi. I had a wig I wore around the house. I had a wig that I wore to events. I had a wig that I wore when I worked out. I never showed my natural hair. It was a crutch, not an enhancement … I was so desperate for people to think that I was beautiful. I had to be liberated from that [feeling] to a certain extent.” So at the 2012 Oscars, she exposed her “natural hair.” She still has her wigs; she wears them on Murder, she wears them to photo shoots, she wears them when she doesn’t have time to pick out her hair and get rid of her grays, but she no longer wears them in her everyday life. What matters, she says, is that “it’s an option … when it used to never be an option. I had something to hide.”
And we love the liberated Viola. Check out her full interview and learn more about her journey as a woman and an actress over at Vulture.
Welcome to our weekly column, Reset. Written by Karen Taylor Bass, this column, published each Tuesday, is about life lessons learned and mastered mentally, spiritually, and physically and how they contribute to a successful life and career.
Viola Davis, the star of the runaway hit, How To Get Away with Murder, is using brand consistency to set Hollywood on fire while pressing RESET and slaying the competition on the small screen.
This game of life requires you to be confident and consistent. If you say you are the best, then bring it. Show your successful projects, letters of recommendations and praises from your (former) employers and colleagues and never be afraid to be your own advocate and hype-woman.
The competition to secure an opportunity can be challenging. Black women, entrepreneurs and small business owners must deliver a congruous and confident brand each time. My definition of branding: a consistent feeling, image and experience desired from a product conveyed to the general public. Basically, you are your own brand.
Enter brand Viola Davis: talented actress, Academy award nominee, producer and mom. She is the unlikely next big star as it relates to her age and skin complexion in a “traditional beauty” obsessed world (according to some misguided columnists). However she is a baaadasss, proud, confident and winning.
Her debut role as Tonya in August Wilson’s “King Hedley II“ on Broadway scored her a Tony award and set her in motion as an actress and she has been working ever since. Brand Davis has allowed her talent to take center stage and cement by simply being herself.
Davis isn’t the “standard beauty” that Hollywood seems to crave, and she isn’t being raved about in mainstream media as much as other uber-waif and cosmetically-enhanced actresses, but Brand Davis is a one-woman show oozing with determination, talent, and sister girl appeal. Her brand is strategic, smart, unconventional, powerful, authentic and well liked.
As savvy women we must learn from Brand Davis to love the skin we are in to attract the big break. How many of us miss the mark because we don’t believe in our gifts? Is it because we are busy worrying about the competition, or is because we lack confidence as it relates to our talent? All you need to succeed is within you and press RESET.
Start your campaign of brand confidence and consistency today. Trusting that you have what it takes to win; showcase your character and knowledge to stand out; deliver to your job/client what you pitch; and display the confidence to make it happen.
Here are my tips to get you started and press RESET:
-Define yourself and love who you are by your standards (warts and all).
-Do your research as it relates to the marketplace. What can you bring differently to the job/contract?
-Show up to win; it’s all an attitude and mindset.
-Have fun and enjoy each moment of life.
What are your strategies for winning? Let me know your thoughts.
Karen Taylor Bass, The PR Expert and Brand Mom provide entrepreneurs, corporations, and mompreneurs with essential branding, marketing, and public relations coaching. Follow Karen @thebrandnewmom on Twitter.
When that New York Times article about Shonda Rhimes, “How to Get Away with Murder,” and Viola Davis’ beauty came out, people were rightfully outraged. The article was full of backhanded compliments with a touch of unknowing (?) racism. Talk show hosts have spoken about it. Think pieces have been written, slamming the Times for their negligence, and a hashtag was created challenging that problematic phrase “less classically beautiful.”
But what did Viola Davis have to say about all of this? We know she quoted Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise ” in a tweet. But last week, before the premiere of her new show, she spoke with Rosie Perez and Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” extensively about the show and her reaction to the piece. Here’s what she had to say.
How Shonda got her to take on this television role
It was easy to get me to do this tv show. All the roles I’ve ever gotten, you’ve seen the roles I’ve gotten. They’ve been wonderful but so many of them have been downtrodden. They’ve been women who are pretty much asexual, they haven’t been realized, they have careers but no names. And all of a sudden I was given this opportunity to play someone sexy, mysterious, someone complicated. And it was a chance to use my craft. It was a chance to transform. It was a chance to surprise myself and the public. And I took it.
I know so many actors in their careers, their seventies, eighties, fantastic actresses of color who have never been given this opportunity. I’m so thankful that it came to me at this point in my life.
Rosie Perez commends her for her performance of this character saying that in it, Davis is intelligent, fierce and sexy.
I see myself as those things in my life but I very rarely have seen people who are a physical manifestation of me on the screen. When I was younger, it was people like Cicely Tyson and Diahann Carroll and Madge Sinclair who made me believe I could do it. And then somewhere along the line, they disappeared.
Once again, I’m glad that Shonda Rhimes saw me. That she saw me and she took me in.
When I did an interview with Oprah, I said ‘No one’s ever going to cast me in a sexy role’ and Shonda looked at that interview and said ‘Why not?’ And I’m glad she said why not. I think that’s what makes her a visionary. That’s what makes her special, that’s what makes her iconic.
Whoopi says Shonda casts herself and that’s why she was able to see Viola. But other people don’t get it.
I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement my entire life being a dark skinned Black woman. Points to Whoopi You know what I mean. You hear it from the time you come out of the womb. And classically not beautiful is a fancy term of saying ugly and denouncing you, erasing you. It worked when I was younger, it no longer works for me now. It’s like Ruby Dee said, that she wanted that beauty, that hard to get beauty that comes from within, strength, courage and dignity. And what you’re seeing now are so many Black women came out after that article and they used the hashtag “not classically beautiful” or whatever and they’re showing their face and they’re stepping into who they are because they’re teaching a culture how to treat them and how to see them. Because really, at the end of day, you define you. You define you.
My love for Viola is on swole after seeing this interview. It’s one thing to be talented but it’s even more impressive when that talent comes with substance, an authenticity and a willingness to inspire others. She really is a gem, as beautiful inside as she is outwardly.
You can watch her full segment on “The View” in the video below.
This is how you start a new show: with a bang. “How To Get Away With Murder” had our jaws on the floor. And watching Viola Davis walk into that room in that oxblood, leather jacket, life was given. I enjoyed the show so much, I figured it’s worth discussing, particularly since there was such hubbub about it before it ever even premiered. And while people kept shouting out Shonda last night, in an attempt not to repeat just one of the New York Times’ errors, it is worth noting that Shonda did not create “How To Get Away With Murder,” Peter Nowalk did.