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The Inspirational Viola Davis
by Sandra Siepak
More than 20 years of TV/Print experience covering news and entertainment. Coverage of celebrity interviews, feature films stage productions in Los Angeles, CA.

By: Sandra Siepak

Academy Award nominee Viola Davis has a lot to celebrate these days. Along with the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress and an accolade sweep of other major awards this season for her stellar and unforgettable performance as Aibiline Clark in The Help, it has been her year in film and a well-deserved honor.
Davis, who resides in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles is no overnight sensation. Acting for more than 23 years in TV and films, she has been working hard to establish her impressive credentials. Many words come to mind to describe her talent: engaging, strong willed and compelling. At 46, her multi-faceted film career just keeps getting better and lucky for audiences her roles in those films, many of them incredibly profound dramas she delivers first-rate performances with heart and soul perfection.
In her award winning role as Aibilene in Dreamworks The Help, Davis portrays a middle-aged uneducated black domestic who goes public with the truth about her white employers living in the 1960’s South in Jackson Mississippi. Discussing The Help, Davis passionately acknowledged the film’s message and talked about her character candidly saying it emboldened her and made her stronger.
“The lives of the maids and the Caucasian women they work for intertwine. The backdrop of history rises to a level that makes a larger statement than the personal story. In this film race enters the picture and it rises to a different level. We have a 350 year history of racism in this country that we still see the effects of today. That’s the conversation this film sparks so much. It’s about ordinary people who tap into what is extraordinary about themselves. The Help is a universal story.”
In The Help her beloved character Aibilene seems to strike a familiar chord with audiences of all ages and races. Davis agreed saying playing Aibilene hit close to home with many great role models in her own life including her mother Mary who spent years working as a maid and provided much inspiration.
“Everybody had an Aibilene that made a difference in their life and intervened. For me, Aibilene is my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. They were all powerful women to me. The foundation of this country is a melting pot. The Help is an American story born out of our history.”
After her recent win for Best Actress at The NAACP Image Awards Davis commented, “I love the fact these women in the film went on a journey, and became extraordinary heroes. In this role I just wanted to tell the truth, not revise it or erase it.”
Coming up the ranks in Hollywood was no easy task. Davis had her share of struggles. She is a credit to her profession being someone who believes success is achieved the old fashioned way-through hard work.
“My biggest inspiration was living in poverty, only because it taught me the value of hard work and faith.”
Born on a farm in South Carolina in 1965 and delivered by her grandmother Viola Davis soon moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island where she grew up one of six children and came from nothing. She never had a phone, always had holes in her shoes and never watched the Oscars but she did have her own dream. As a child acting and skits were a way to escape. She loved watching movies and discovered a love for acting in high school. She was inspired to become an actress after seeing actress Cicely Tyson in ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” It was Bernard Masterson who saw her as a teenage actress at a local drama festival and provided an acting scholarship to Rhode Island College and later the famed Juilliard School in New York City.
“What made a difference between me getting to a place living in poverty, living in condemned buildings, to getting to where I am today was someone threw me a rope. Someone validated me and asked me if I had a dream. If it were not for that even with a big dream and working hard I would not be where I am today. You need the help. This film, The Help carries so many messages. Someone has to give you permission to dream.”
Davis went on to star in numerous theatre productions on Broadway including King Hedley II and Fences in which she won Tony Awards for both her performances. Her numerous TV and film credits include: CSI Law & Order (Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit and City of Angeles. She went on to star in such films as; Antwone Fisher, Traffic, Syriana, Out of Sight, Disturbia , Eat, Pray Love,and Doubt in which she delivered a riveting performance that gave her a first time Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2008. Davis also had a featured role in this year’s critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”
For Viola Davis there is also a treasured personal life which brings her back to reality and keeps her grounded away from Hollywood. She and her husband actor Julius Tennon have been married five years and recently adopted a baby girl, Genesis, now 20 months old. Surprisingly she likes the haven of anonymity here in the San Fernando Valley where she lives quite an ordinary life. Davis is known to enjoy going to the local Starbucks, swimming in her backyard pool and even loves to cook. She admits she’s not really into all the Hollywood glam and knows what’s important. After all the awards and the Oscar’s red carpet is rolled up her plans are to simply follow her heart and keep making a difference in films.
“For me what puts it all in perspective is being a wife and mother. “After all the awards that’s when I get back to being truly who I am as an artist and a mother and wife. Everything that’s happened this season I enjoy, I embrace fully, but I understand what it is real too.”
Although Davis is at the top of her game as an actress she also knows now is her chance to make an impact as a producer and filmmaker. She and her husband recently formed a production company which will begin producing film projects including the recently optioned story, “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree,” the story of an African-American woman farming the Badlands set in 1917.
Accepting her recent Screen Actors Guild Award Davis spoke openly and summed it up best.
“I just have to say that the stain of racism and sexism is not just for people of color, or women. It’s all of our burden, all of us.” She went on to send a message to the audience and the school children in her childhood home of Central Falls, Rhode Island, saying to “Dream Big. Dream Fierce.” It is the same motto she herself has followed throughout her own life which took her all the way to the forefront as one of the most accomplished and leading actresses in film today.

Published: Mar 11,2012 16:34
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