Decades before becoming one of the world’s rare EGOT winners, Viola Davis was one of six children born to Dan Davis, a horse trainer, and Mae Alice Davis, a homemaker and maid. Born in South Carolina and raised in Rhode Island, Viola graduated from Rhode Island College in 1988 with a theater degree. After continuing her theater education at Julliard and graduating in 1993, the How to Get Away With Murder actress starred in numerous Broadway productions, scoring her first Tony nomination in 1996 for Seven Guitars. (She won her first Tony five years later for her role in King Hedley II, for which she also earned a Drama Desk Award.)
While dominating the stage, the Doubt star also began her onscreen career with one-off roles on fan-favorite TV shows, such as NYPD Blue and Judging Amy, before scoring the role of Nurse Lynnette Peeler on the 2000 medical drama City of Angels. Viola’s star continued to rise as she appeared in a number of TV shows and films — including small roles in 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven and Kate & Leopold and 2007’s Disturbia and more — before landing her breakout role in 2009’s Doubt. She earned her first Academy Award nomination for her performance.
The Help actress’ career skyrocketed from there, earning her even more accolades across both stage and screen. For her role as Rose Maxson in the stage production of Fences, Viola won her second Tony Award, later receiving both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for reprising the part in the 2016 film of the same name. From 2014 to 2020, the South Carolina native starred as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder, a role for which she won multiple SAG Awards and an Emmy. She portrayed the titular character in 2021’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for which she scored another Oscar nomination. Two years later, she became an EGOT winner after taking home the 2023 Grammy Award for her audio narration of her memoir, Finding Me.
Viola married husband Julius Tennon in 2010. The couple adopted their daughter, Genesis, one year later.