Best Actress of the Decade, Entry No. 12: Viola Davis

To celebrate the last decade 2010-2019 we are counting down the best actresses and discussing some of their most notable and memorable performances of the last decade. With the help of Film Twitter, the ITOL team have selected 30 actresses. Entry No. 12 is Viola Davis, and writer Georgia De Souza discusses Davis career over the last decade.

By Georgia De Souza

Viola Davis has made herself a household name by being one of the most well-established women of colour actresses. She is a well-rounded actress, often appearing in dramatic roles, whilst also being a mouthpiece for people of colour in society, through these roles. After working in theatre and television from 1996, Davis rose to fame through her portrayal of Aibileen Clark in the 2011 film “The Help”. From then on, she has landed roles in both producing and acting for film and television, attaining many high-ranked nominations and awards for her roles. With over 213 nominations and 102 wins, it is no wonder that Davis is (tied with Octavia Spencer) the most nominated black actress in history.

THE HELP

Whilst looking back at Tate Taylor’s 2011 film “The Help”, it may be viewed as an unrealistic presentation of America in the 1960s, Davis’ role as Aibileen Clark helped boost her position within Hollywood. Working alongside Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone, Davis’ played the role of a black maid in the ’60s, a character which she suggested resembled her mother and grandmother. For Davis it was key to explore the character of Aibileen and the society she lived in, to ensure Taylor was able to direct a believable film. However, an interview with the New York Times in 2018, revealed that Davis regretted her participation in the film expressing that “it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard.

the help
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in The Help (2011) © DreamWorks II Distribution Co.

On the other hand, the portrayal of Aibileen landed Davis many award nominations, including an Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globe nomination, whilst she successfully received 24 awards for this role.

Viola Davis has made herself a household name by being one of the most well-established women of colour actresses. She is a well-rounded actress, often appearing in dramatic roles, whilst also being a mouthpiece for people of colour in society, through these roles.

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

Turning away from the big screen, Davis started acting in the ABC production “How to Get Away with Murder” in 2015. In this role, Davis plays law professor, Annalise Keating in the prestigious Philadelphia University. The premises of the series follows Annalise as she ends up in several situations in which she has to, with the help of her students, cover up murders. Originally Professor Keating is introduced to her students and audience as a well-known criminal defence attorney, however, they soon realise that she is, in fact, unstable due to her complicated past leading to her alcohol addiction. Throughout the six seasons (five to UK viewers) the audience is brought on an emotional journey as they slowly learn more about who Annalise and her traumas from the time before she worked with The Keating 5.

how to
Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder (2014) © 2018 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Davis’ role as Professor Keating has once again landed her with many nominations and awards. Her role as Annalise landed her with a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Leading Female Actress in a Drama Series in 2015 – this was a historic win, as she became the first black woman to receive this award.

With over 213 nominations and 102 wins, it is no wonder that Davis is (tied with Octavia Spencer) the most nominated black actress in history.

Although there are rumours that HTGAWM is coming to an end, it is definitely likely that Davis will still be on our screens for the foreseeable future. Whilst shooting the television series, Davis continued in film acting, playing the role of Veronica in “Fences” and less typecast roles of Miss Rayleen in “Troop Zero” and Amanda Waller in “Suicide Squad”. Whilst it is controversially questionable about the likeness of her receiving the prestigious Academy Award for her acting, Davis has done extremely well within the industry; her achievement of being the most nominated black female actress in history to name one.

fences
Viola Davis in Fences (2016) © MMXVI Paramount Pictures Corporation.

Luckily for us, Davis is already set for the next few years with many film releases including the sequel of “Suicide Squad” set for release in 2021, as well as an unnamed project working alongside Sandra Bullock.

What’s your favourite performance by Viola Davis? Let us know in the comments.

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