March 02, 2017
By Lapacazo Sandoval
Recently, when Viola Davis walked onstage at the 89th Academy Awards to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress, she also got positioned into one of the most prestigious acting clubs in the world. She became the first Black woman to win an Oscar®, Emmy ® and Tony® for acting.
This win for her work in “Fences” marks her as the 23rd person to complete the so-called “triple crown” of acting. It is a difficult feat to accomplish for anyone and she is the first black woman to do so.
Prior to “Fences,” Davis had won an Emmy in 2015 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work on “How to Get Away with Murder” and two Tony Awards, first in 2001 for her work in “King Hedley II” and then again in 2010 for her work in the Broadway rendition of “Fences.”
Inside the Oscar® press room the journalists, from around the globe, exploded with thunderous applause when her name was called. By her side was her husband and business partner in the production company JuVee Productions, Julius Tennon.
Here is a brief excerpt
Q: You talked about how much your parents have supported you, and I’m just curious if there’s anything that they said to you when you were growing up that you kept with you and that you pass onto others.
A: That they loved me. And my mom always said, “I knew the difference between an accountant and an actor,” but she was always okay with it. You know, someone told me years ago, they said, “You have the best parents.” I said, “I do?” And they said, “Yeah, because they’re okay with just letting you fly. They’re not stage parents.” And I think that’s the biggest gift my parents gave to me is to kind of allow me to live my own life. They weren’t living their dreams through me. So, yeah.
Q: How did playing Rose challenge you?
A: Everything about Rose challenged me. Rose just kind of seemingly just being sometimes at peace with being in the background was hard to play. Rose getting to a place of forgiveness was hard to play. I never hit it when I — that last scene when I did 114 performances on stage, I didn’t understand the last speech when she said, you know, “I gave up my life to make him bigger.” I didn’t get that. But what Rose has taught me is a lot of what my mom has taught me: That my mom has lived a really hard life, but she still has an abundance of love. And that’s the thing, you know. That’s the thing about life. You go through it, and you — just terrible things happen to you, beautiful things happen to you, and then you try to just stand up every day, but that's not the point. The point is feeling all those things but still connecting to people, still being able to love people. And that was the best thing about playing Rose because I'm not there yet. Even at 51, sometimes I just kind of live in my anger.
Q: Please tell me what you love about being a black woman?
A: Everything. I love my history. I love the fact I can go back and look at so many different stories of women that have gone before me who seemingly should not have survived, and they did. And I love my skin. I love my voice. I love my history. Sometimes I don’t love being the spokesperson all the time, but so be it. That’s the way that goes, right? But at 51, I — I’m — I’m sort of loving me.
Q: What makes a great story?
A: What makes a great story? What makes a great story most definitely is fully realized characters, great writing, definitely, where you can — where a character is introduced to you from the very beginning and they go on a journey that's unexpected, and then they arrive someplace completely different from where they started. What makes a great story is the element of surprise. And what makes a great story absolutely is if it has a central event that helps people connect to a part of themselves. And in that, FENCES had it all. Because that's what it's about, right? You want to connect when you go and — I mean, sometimes you want to eat the buttered popcorn and the Milk Duds and the Sour Patch Kids. I do that a lot too, and Diet Coke. But more often you want to be shifted in some way in your thinking in your feeling about who you are in the world, you know. That’s — that would be a great story, yeah.