Her films include Traffic (2000), Antwone Fisher (2002), and Solaris (2002). Her eight-minute-long performance in the film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt (2008) garnered several honors, including a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Davis was born on her grandmother's farm in St. Matthews, South Carolina, the second youngest of six children. Her mother, Mae Alice, was a maid, factory worker, and homemaker, and her father, Dan Davis, was a horse trainer. Her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island when she was two months old. Davis has described herself as having "lived in abject poverty and dysfunction" during her childhood.
Davis credits in part her involvement in the arts at her Alma mater, Central Falls High School, for her love of stage acting. Davis majored in theatre at Rhode Island College, graduating in 1988; in 2002 she received an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the college. She was involved in the federal TRIO Upward Bound and TRIO Student Support Services programs. While Davis was a teenager, her talent was recognized by Bernard Masterson when, as director of Young People's School for the Performing Arts in Rhode Island, he awarded Davis a scholarship into that program.
She also attended the Juilliard School for four years, characterizing the experience as a "hot mess".
In 2001, she was awarded the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Tonya in King Hedley II, a "35-year-old mother fighting eloquently for the right to abort a pregnancy." She has also received two Drama Desk Award, for her work in King Hedley II and, in 2004, for her work in an off-Broadway production of Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage.
Davis appears in numerous films, including three films directed by Steven Soderbergh - Out of Sight, Solaris and Traffic, as well as Syriana, which Soderbergh produced. Viola is also the uncredited voice of the parole board interrogator who questions Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in the first scene in Ocean's Eleven. She also gave brief performances in the films Kate & Leopold and Antwone Fisher. Her television work includes a recurring role in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; a starring role in the short-lived Traveler; and a special guest appearance in "Badge", a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode.
In 2008, Davis played Mrs. Miller in the film adaption to the Broadway play, Doubt with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. She was nominated for several awards for this performance, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
On June 30, 2009, Davis was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
On June 13, 2010, Davis won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Rose Maxson in a revival of August Wilson's Fences. She is the second African-American woman to win the award, after Phylicia Rashād.
Davis played the role of Dr. Minerva in It's Kind of a Funny Story, a coming-of-age film written and directed by Anna Boden with Ryan Fleck, adapted from the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini.
In August 2011, Davis joined Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, and Bryce Dallas Howard in DreamWorks' production of The Help, in which she played the stalwart domestic, "Aibileen Clark." The film was directed by Tate Taylor, and produced by Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, and Mark Radcliffe. Her role has garnered her critical acclaim, and has started buzz for various awards nominations.
Davis has been married to actor Julius Tennon since June 2003. They have two children from Tennon's previous relationships.
|Julius Tennon||(23 June 2003 - present) 1 child|
Graduated from The Juilliard School.
Won Broadway's 2001 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for August Wilson's "King Hedley II." She had previously been nominated in the same category in 1996 for another Wilson play, "Seven Guitars."
Won the 2005 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for "Intimate Apparel" in 2004.
She is the daughter of Mary and Dan Davis. Dan was a horse-groomer for the Narrangasett and Lincoln Downs racetracks in Rhode Island.
Attended Rhode Island College and majored in theater.
Grew up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Her family moved there when she was 2-months old.
Inducted into The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on June 30, 2009.
Announced that she and her husband, Julius Tennon, have adopted a newborn daughter named Genesis Tennon (October 2011).
In 2012, Davis told Entertainment Weekly that she and her husband stayed at George Clooney's Italian estate on Lake Como for their honeymoon.
Is one of 10 African-American actresses to be Oscar-nominated for 'Best Actress in a Leading Role'. The others in chronological order are Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gabourey Sidibe and Quvenzhané Wallis.
Is one of two African-American actresses (the other being Whoopi Goldberg) to be nominated for an Academy Award in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.
Returned to work 4 months after adopting her daughter Genesis to begin filming Ender's Game (2013).
One of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World (2012).
We grew up in abject poverty. Acting, writing scripts and skits were a way of escaping our environment at a very young age.
[on why she's not inspired to direct] I can't deal with actors! I can't deal with myself. We're neurotic and miserable... I love doing what I'm doing, but while I'm doing it, I'm miserable.
[on undertaking the role of Aibileen in The Help (2011)]: I absolutely feel that she just had the nurturing instinct. You know, it's like my mom. She's said she's taken care of kids since she was four years old, and she's now sixty-eight. That's all she knew,, which was to take care of kids. She also had seventeen of her brothers and sisters and cousins and all of that - and she was always taking care of them. I myself was delivered by my grandmother.
The thing about the African-American community compared with the white community is, we are more concerned with image and message than execution. I don't play roles that are necessarily attractive or portray a positive image. They are well-rounded characters. When you squelch excellence to put out a message it's like passing the baton and seeing it drop.
[on roles for African-American actresses] You're not doing the Irish and Scottish accents they taught at Juilliard. In the real world you're doing Ebonics and Jamaican.
[on performing with Jeremy Irons in 'Beautiful Creatures'] He's a total hippie. Here's this grand, talented man who counters it with just humility - very casual and loose. So it was a joy to work with him in the swamps.
(September 2004) Starring in the play "Intimate Apparel" at the Mark Taper Forum.
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