Viola Davis Talks Her Emmys 2015 Speech: My Husband Was Like “What Is She Doing?!”

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon
 John Shearer/WireImage

On Sunday, Sept. 20, Viola Davis gave a lesson on How to Give the Perfect Emmys Speech. The first-time Emmy winner, 50, made history by being the first black woman to take home the coveted award in the Best Lead Actress category, and used her acceptance speech as a platform to highlight race inequality in Hollywood.

During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Thursday, Sept. 24, Davis revealed that by starting with a moving Harriet Tubman quote, she managed to freak out her husband of 12 years, Julius Tennon

viola and ellen
Viola Davis and Ellen Degeneres Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

“I did want to mark the fact that it was the first African-American to win the Lead Actress category,” she said. “So I love that Harriet Tubman quote. I thought it was so progressive. And I started it and my husband said afterwards, ‘V, I didn’t know where you were going with that. I really didn’t. When you were saying those white women with those arms stretched out over the line, I was like, what is she doing?! But when you said Harriet Tubman said it, I was like, oh my God, thank God!’”

The How to Get Away With Murder actress said she had no idea she was the favorite to win. 

“I was? I wish someone would have told me,” she quipped. “Meryl Streep said years ago, ‘The thing that you have to fight the most when you lose is you feel like the biggest failure in the world.’ Of course, that’s not true, but I had my loser face on.”

But she had some sweet support from her 5-year-old daughter, Genesis

“She said ‘Mommy you don’t have to be afraid of losing. You’re still my favorite girl,’” the proud mom recalled.  

The Shondaland star also revealed that she had no idea her speech had received a standing ovation. At the time, her focus was elsewhere. 

“I felt a great wall of silence, and I think I felt that way because I saw the McDonald’s French fries backstage, and I was trying to get those McDonald’s French fries,” she said, laughing. “I ate them as if I hadn’t eaten them in five years. You’re subversive if you eat French fries in Hollywood.”

Following her historic win, Davis got a giant bouquet of flowers from Oprah Winfrey, along with other pricey gifts. 

“I love it!” she said. “I love being at the receiving end of all of her big gifts! She sent Jay Z’s champagne to me, which I always look it up online to see how much it costs, which is really tacky of me. $450 a bottle!”

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