Friday, August 11, 2017

Happy Birthday Viola Davis: Fem Film Rogue Icon Spotlight

Don't call her the "Black Meryl Streep," Viola Davis (first African American actor to win triple crown of acting: Oscar, Emmy, and Tony) has definitely carved a stake in Hollywood on her own terms.
I first saw this incredibly gifted actress in John Patrick Stanley's Doubt. She had this huge, pivotal scene that stole the whole film from seasoned Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was taken aback, shaken to the core. "Until June," this mother would willingly ignore heinous allegations that a priest was possibly making on her young son, testimony based on words by a nun. What?

Viola Davis's delivery was excellent-- aghast, stunned, complacent. Immediately, I looked up her imdb, desperate to watch whatever else she blessed. Her ability to convey a wide range of human emotion is a tremendous skill few can truly touch.

Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis) only had one scene of dialogue and Davis gave script one hundred percent gold.
On this day in 1965, Davis was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, the fifth of six children. Her mother worked several jobs, was also a Civil Rights activist, going as far as being jailed with young Viola in tow. Overcoming great strife such as wretched hardship, Davis went on to succeed at Rhode Island College and Julliard.

Is it any wonder why she was chosen as Time 100's Most Influential? Viola hasn't only just crafted acting. She has given voice to black Hollywood's unhidden issues.  
Davis is a well-trained theater actress. No doubt. In film and television, her fierce tenacity translates beautifully onscreen. She has worked with some of the best actors and actresses in Hollywood, but brings her own dish to the table. Often at times, outshining her partner. In Fences, she brought it all (sorry Denzel).

How to Get Away With Murder functions from fall season opener, to winter breaker, to spring season finale due to Davis's weekly top notch acting class masterpieces. Davis breathes effortlessly into Annalise Keating. She cries, tears joining with nostril snot. She pulls off her hair pieces and wipes away makeup. Everyone feels her pain and struggle as though fourth wall has been cracked. We just want to offer her hugs and tissues. Annalise is also manipulative, seductive, fiery, smart, and courageous. At times, she can be selfish and selfless. She has significant relationships with men and women. Thanks to this wig popping, heart beat snatching role, Davis is still the first and only black woman to receive the Primetime Emmy for Best Leading Actress in a Drama Series. Weeks ago, she received her third consecutive nomination.

In addition to redefining history, her award win list is miles long. With vast theater expertise, she has won two coveted Drama Desk Awards (including one for two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel)  and two Tony Awards. She has five SAG Awards (first for a black actor). In addition to a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, our sis has three AAFCA Awards (African American Film Critics Association), four NAACP Image Awards, three Black Reel Awards, and a BET Award. And this year, she won her first Academy Award after two prior nominations.

Yet Davis shows no signs of stopping. She and her husband have a production company called JuVee Productions which have produced amazing films like Lila and Eve and Custody. They're working on a biography of Barbara Jordan. Plus the digital series American Koko is on its second season.

In Shondaland's hit How to Get Away With Murder, in criminal defense attorney Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), audiences see a powerful, multi-layered dark skinned black woman grace the screens for fifteen suspenseful episodes per season.
Another wonderful, motivating trait about Davis, next to her commendable acting ability and realm into producing black stories, is her advocacy for black women, especially dark skinned women still searching for a pedestal, a right to be deemed acceptable and sexy in this Europeanized society. She bravely includes this notion in almost every awards speech, the need to be seen, to be a desirable character. She talks bluntly about colorism, the paper bag test that will never die, sharing hopes that our stories will continue being complex and honest portrayal of African diaspora. The future deserves a champion like Davis. She eloquently speaks a truth that few dare to bring to light.    

Viola with her much ado Oscar. She is a Grammy win away from EGOT status and there's no doubt that she'll achieve that.

Whether playing an anti-hero or a flawed feminine icon, Davis is here to stay and help move us along.

Four Viola Davis quotes to live by:

"The one thing I feel is lacking in Hollywood today is an understanding of the beauty, the power, the sexuality, the uniqueness, the humor of being a regular Black woman." Essence, 2013

"Vanity destroys your work. That's the one thing you have to let go of as an actor. I don't care how sexy or beautiful any woman is. At the end of the day, she has to take her makeup off. At the end of the day, she's more than just pretty." The New York Times Magazine, 2014

"Every time I look at the [photo of myself as a] little girl, I always thought, Oh, that's a cute outfit.' But she was always hungry, she was always shy, she was always kind of in the background, but inside she had big dreams bursting. And the only thing I could think about is that saying, 'What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly.'" On receiving her Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, 2016

"You know, there's one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that's the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life...." Oscar Speech, 2017

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