Actor, Producer, and Philanthropist
Viola Davis is the first black actress to win Tony (“Fences” & “King Hedley II”), Oscar (“Fences”) and Emmy (“How to Get Away with Murder”) awards. Davis starred in the ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder,” from ABC Studios and Shondaland, which aired its final episode in May. The series, which drew 14.24 million viewers during its 2014 premiere, centered on ambitious law students and their brilliant and mysterious criminal defense professor. In 2015, Davis received the Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series,” in addition to becoming the first African American actress to receive the Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.” In 2016, she received her second Screen Actors Guild Award and her second Emmy nomination for portraying Annalise Keating and this year, received her third Emmy Nomination for the role.
Davis was recently seen in Amazon Studio’s family comedy, “Troop Zero,” directed by Bert & Bertie, and will next be seen in Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” based on the play of the same name by August Wilson.
As her credits attest, Davis is in constant demand for a wide variety of roles. In 2018, Davis was seen staring in Fox’s “Widows.” Directed by Steve McQueen and written by Gillian Flynn, the film follows a group of widows after their criminal husbands are killed during a heist.
In 2017, she was seen in “Fences” for Paramount Pictures. The film was directed and produced by Denzel Washington and was adapted from August Wilson’s play. Davis garnered Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and anAcademy awards in the category of “Best Supporting Actress” for her portrayal of ‘Rose Maxson.’ Davis also starred with Washington in the 2010 revival of the play on Broadway. Her performance earned her a Tony Award, as well as the Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award. “Fences” was also honored with the Tony Award for “Best Play Revival” and was the most profitable theater production of the year.
In 2016, Davis was seen in the highly anticipated “Suicide Squad” with Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto. The film broke the all-time opening record for August with $135 million. In 2015, Davis starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in “Lila & Eve,” the story of two mothers whose children are killed in drive-by shootings. Davis also took the reins as a producer on this film, along with her husband, Julius Tennon, for their company, JuVee Productions.
In 2012, Davis and her husband founded JuVee, with its focus being to give a voice to the voiceless through strong, impactful and culturally relevant narratives. The Los Angeles-based and artist driven company produces film, television and digital content across all of entertainment. As their first project, they optioned the rights to Ann Weisgarber’s 2008 book The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. JuVee Productions’ projects include “Girls Like Us” an adaptation of Rachael Lloyd’s memoir which chronicles her falling prey to the world of commercial sex exploitation and escaping to dedicate her life to fight that very industry. Additionally, it was recently announced that JuVee would be producing a drama starring Davis and Lupita Nyong’o entitled “Woman King.” Based on true events, the film tells the story of a general of an all-female West African military and her daughter. JuVee’s TV projects include a docuseries entitled “The Last Defense” that explores and exposes flaws in the American justice system and “Black Don’t Crack” an ABC comedy executive produced by Larry Wilmore.
In 2012, Davis received an Oscar nomination for “Best Actress” for her portrayal of the heart-broken but stoic ‘Aibileen Clark’ in “The Help.” Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer also starred. The film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel, directed by Tate Taylor, was set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the turbulent 1960s, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Picture.” Davis won the Screen Actors Guildand Critics’ Choice “Best Actress” Awards for her portrayal of ‘Aibileen,’ and was also nominated for a Golden Globe and British Academy Film Award. The film won a Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture” and a Critics’ Choice Award for “Best Acting Ensemble.”
In 2008, Davis starred in the critically revered film “Doubt” based on John Patrick Shanley’s Tony Award winning play, where she portrayed ‘Mrs. Miller,’ the mother of a young boy who piques the fascination of a Catholic priest. Davis shared the screen alongside Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and an AcademyAward for “Best Supporting Actress.” The National Board of Review recognized Davis with the Breakthrough Award and she was also honored by the Santa Barbara Film Festival as a Virtuoso.
In 2013, film audiences saw Davis in four vastly different projects. In the film adaptation of the popular science fiction novel “Ender’s Game,” Davis portrayed military psychologist ‘Major Gwen Anderson,’ opposite Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and Harrison Ford. In Warner Bros.’ “Prisoners,” a dark thriller about two families shattered by the kidnapping of their daughters on Thanksgiving Day, she starred alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Paul Dano. In “Beautiful Creatures,” Davis joined Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons in telling the tale of two teens confronting a multi-generational curse. Warner Brothers and Alcon produced the film.
That same year, Davis had a six-episode arc in the Showtime’s hit series “United States of Tara,” written by Academy-Award winner Diablo Cody. Davis portrayed ‘Lynda P. Frazier,’ a wildly eccentric artist and friend to ‘Tara’ (Toni Collette).
Davis won the Independent Spirit Award for “Best Supporting Female” in 2003 for her performance in “Antwone Fisher.” Additional film credits include, “Get On Up,” “Blackhat,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” “Knight and Day,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “Madea Goes to Jail,” “Law Abiding Citizen,” “Disturbia,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “The Architect,” “Never Back Down” and “Far From Heaven.” She worked with director Steven Soderbergh on “Solaris,” “Traffic” and “Out of Sight,” and in “Syriana,” which Soderbergh produced for director Stephen Gaghan.
In 2004, Davis starred in the stage in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Lynn Nottage’s play, “Intimate Apparel,” directed by Daniel Sullivan. She garnered the highest honors for an off-Broadway play, including “Best Actress” awards from the Drama Desk, the Drama League, the Obie and the Audelco Award. Davis was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award as well. She reprised her role at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles where she was recognized with the Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critics and the Garland Awards.
In 2001, Davis was awarded a Tony for “Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play” for her portrayal of ‘Tonya’ in “King Hedley II.” She commanded the attention of critics and audiences alike for her portrayal of “Tonya,” a 35-year old woman who is forced to fight for the right to abort an unwanted pregnancy. Davis also received a Drama Desk Awardin recognition of her work.
A graduate of The Julliard School, Davis received an Honorary Doctorate during its 109th Commencement Ceremony and she also holds an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from her alma mater, Rhode Island College. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
On Capital, Creativity, and Community Care
What happens when we bring the best of ourselves together—to lift one another up? The Oscar-winning actress and producer considers the mentorship and connections that helped pave her way as an artist, and the ways she’s paying it forward—specifically how she uses capital as a means of lifting up women-led tech/media companies. But she doesn’t leave us off the hook. Davis also invites us to reimagine the ways we can pave similar roads for each other through our platforms, experiences, and creativity.