Throughout her career, Viola Davis has established herself as a legend in the film industry, and achieving a coveted EGOT in the process. Here is a list of her 14 best on-screen performances.
Viola Davis played a police officer in 2001’s Kate and Leopold. Seems like she enjoyed the role of a cop — she also made guest appearances on NYPD Blue and Law & Order: SVU.
A graduate of the Julliard School in New York, Davis certainly was trained well. She played Eva May in 2002’s the touching film, Antwone Fisher. The actress told Playbill.com that her role was small, but she loved working on the film. “I loved working with Denzel [Washington]; he’s a great director. We rehearsed, just as if it was theatre. Usually film roles are just jobs. You hit your mark and go home. But [Antwone Fisher] was a joy!”
Proving her versatility, Davis played Helen Gordon in the 2002 sci-fi film, Solaris, alongside George Clooney.
Davis wowed audiences in 2006’s The Architect as a tough-as-nails community activist. The previous year, she portrayed 50 Cent’s grandmother in Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Though it was short-lived, Davis played Agent Jan Marlow in the TV series Traveler in 2007. By then, she was a well-seasoned TV veteran on her way to snagging lead roles in films.
Davis was Jean, the confident and artistic best friend to Adrienne Willis, played by Diane Lane, in 2008’s Nights in Rodanthe. It would be Davis’ first film of 2008, but it would soon be overshadowed by her small role in Doubt.
A versatile actor is always the greatest. In 2008, Davis played Mrs. Miller in the thought-provoking film Doubt next to Meryl Streep. She proved she could hold her own by receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role. Davis told Rotten Tomatoes, “I certainly didn’t think that in a movie filled with such fantastic performances, that people would even notice it. I thought that [my role] would just kind of fit into the grand landscape of the movie, and just keep it together.”
Making an appearance in Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail in 2009, Davis played Ellen, a minister out to help Candace get out of prostitution. Davis said in a behind-the-scenes interview that she was proud to participate in the Madea series. “I’m at a stage in my life where what is the most enjoyable to me is to be a part of a franchise whose main objective is to make people feel good and uplift.”
Davis, once again, earned the recognition she deserved for her role as Aibleen Clark in 2011’s The Help. Davis and her co-star, Octavia Spencer, earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Davis told ESSENCE: “Of course I had trepidations [about the role]. Why do I have to play the mammy? But what do you do as an actor if one of the most multifaceted and rich roles you’ve ever been given is a maid in 1962 Mississippi? Do you not take the role because you feel like in some ways it’s not a good message to send to Black people? No. The message is quality of work. That is a greater message.”
There isn’t much this Oscar nominated actress can’t do. In Won’t Back Down, Davis plays schoolteacher Nona Alberts who joins forces with a parent to take over a Pittsburgh school. She told ESSENCE.com exclusively, “I connected with the character more as a woman who has come to an impasse in her life where she’s lost her passion. She also learns how to forgive herself for not being perfect. I identified with that more than anything else. I identify with the human story.”
Starring alongside Denzel Washington in the 2010 Broadway production of Fences, Davis won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. Davis told CBS’ Early Show that she loved the play because “it speaks volumes about everything. That’s what I love about it — that these characters are African-American, but it’s inclusive… it’s about the human condition.”
Davis proved she can act alongside Hollywood’s elite in 2010’s Eat Pray Love. Playing Julia Roberts’ best friend and editor, Delia Shiraz, Davis lends the hearty support to Roberts’ emotionally troubled character, Liz Gilbert.