The academy award winning actor’s latest film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is one of the first big budget releases since the pandemic closed cinemas. Viola Davis is the first black actor to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony award – a triple crown of the most prestigious awards in film, television and theatre.
Born on her grandmother’s farm, a former slave plantation in South Carolina. Davis was raised on the East Coast – in Providence, Rhode Island. As a child growing up in poverty, acting became a means of escape.
After a decades-long career as a respected theatre actor, she was propelled to international attention in 2008, when she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in a single scene; alongside Meryl Streep in the film Doubt. Since then, she’s starred in a great many films and TV series; becoming widely recognised as one of the greatest actors of stage and screen this century.
Becky Milligan explores her life and career and talks to her sister, Deloris, to find out what motivates an actor whose meteoric rise is symbolic of a deeper shift in how the film industry values black artists.
Producers: Tom Wright and Ben Crighton
Editor: Rosamund Jones