Viola Davis sure knows how to move a crowd.
Whether speaking about this country’s millions of hungry children at Variety’s Power of Women event last year or the dearth of opportunities for women of color actresses at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmys just hours ago, Davis always drops the truth in the most poignant, genuine and direct way.
And we love it!
That, along with her gifted thespianism, is one of the reasons why people were thrilled when she won the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series award for her role as Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” becoming the first black woman to win in that category.
When Davis took to the stage, she began her riveting acceptance speech by quoting another powerful black woman, Harriet Tubman (Davis will star as the abolitionist in HBO’s Tubman biopic).
"'In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line.' That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s," Davis told the crowd.
The two-time Oscar nominee continued by pointing out a fact that I and other women of color have mentioned countless times when it comes to how we are portrayed on screen: "And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."
After thanking “Murder” creator Peter Nowalk, producer Shonda Rhimes and the rest of the crew, Davis thanked Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington, Halle Berry, Nicole Beharie, Gabrielle Union and Megan Good— her fellow black actresses who play leading roles on TV series — for “taking us over that line.”
Seriously, what can you say after that?
I’ve written about the possibility of Davis snagging this award when it was first announced that she would star in “Murder.” I also talked about how friggin’ awesome it was that Davis was cast as Annalise, a woman who’s just as complicated as she is confident, successful, intelligent and sexy. Yes, sexy.
Sexiness is an important ingredient because, as Davis and four-time Emmy winner Alfre Woodard shared two years ago on “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” some in Hollywood struggle with casting darker skinned women as the attractive, desired lead. Fortunately, “Murder” creators didn’t have that issue and were happy to help redefine “what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black,” as Davis mentioned in Sunday night’s acceptance speech. We have Rhimes, creator of “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” to thank for that. Yep, the Shonda Rhimes effect is in full force! Hopefully, others in Hollywood will take note and action. Fingers crossed.
Fans of those three ABC series will be thrilled to see Shondaland Thursday resume with the season premieres of “Murder,” “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Murder” airs Thursday at 10 p.m. ET after “Scandal.”
Watch Davis’s speech and then check out “Murder’s” season 1 finale below.
WATCH: Viola Davis’s Emmy acceptance speech
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WATCH: “How to Get Away with Murder” season 1 finale