Emmys: Statues and Talking Points

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Davis’s win ‘bittersweet’ for Henson.

Viola Davis became the first Africa-American woman to win the Emmy’s top acting award – Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series – last night, thanking her fellow black actresses for persevering in an industry where the roles are often “simply not there” for people of colour. “In my mind, I see a line. Sporting what appeared to be her school uniform with her hair styled in a bun, the little girl ended the video by blowing kisses and showing off her purple nail polish. But of all those moved by Viola Davis’ historic win at the Sept. 20 Emmy Awards, perhaps the most appreciative was a former 6-year-old girl who once lost the Miss Center Falls Recreation title. “I keep expecting to be that little girl who loses the contest,” Davis tells Variety, after just four hours’ sleep at an early morning photo shoot at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. “It’s a mixture of disbelief and joy and acceptance. Uzo Aduba was also honoured for her work on Orange Is The New Black at the ceremony, while Game of Thrones took home a host of awards – you can read the full list of winners here.

I just thought, ‘God, please just give it to one of us so we’ll never have to say that again!’ Let’s just break this barrier down and keep on pushing.” She told the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’: “I think the universe is happy. Davis grew up impoverished; she didn’t even meet her sister, Diane, until she was 5 and Diane was 9, because their parents couldn’t afford to raise them together.

When they saw a physical manifestation of a dream, I felt like I had fulfilled a purpose.” Davis will be the first one to tell you her success did not happen overnight. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles.

Backstage at the Emmys, she talked openly about her longevity in the business — as well as her struggles with unemployment. “You guys have to realize, I’ve been in this business 35 years, and 27 years professionally,” she told reporters. “I’m the journeyman actor that you saw in one scene here, two scenes there. I’ve been eking out a living doing theater — Broadway, Off Broadway — film supporting roles, that I’m just excited to be a part of the conversation.” There’s no resting on her laurels for the newly minted Emmy winner: As soon as the photo shoot wrapped, the star of ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” was already back at work on her hit show, where she was greeted with whoops and hollers by her castmates. The win underscores a watershed moment for diversity in television. “Empire,” “Black-ish” and “Scandal” dominate broadcast ratings, and although Davis was competing against “Empire” star Henson for the trophy, the two women make it clear there is no rivalry between them. “We just whispered to each other, ‘Whoever gets it, it’s great, it’s wonderful, and I love you,’ ” Davis told reporters backstage.

Says Lee: “We are thrilled that the Academy recognized Viola’s talent and her enormous contribution to her craft; and, we are honored that she calls ABC her television home. This is a monumental and historic moment for Viola, for ABC and for broadcast television.” Davis says she now has the luxury of being picky about projects, both in front of and behind the camera. “I’ve learned the power of great narrative,” she says, having worked with accomplished creatives — naming August Wilson, Lloyd Richards, Steven Soderbergh — “and I want to be able to have some semblance of control over that than to just be at the mercy of what’s out there.” In the pipeline are projects about civil rights activist and congresswoman Barbara Jordan, to be directed by Tony Kushner; and Vee-Jay Records, which preceded Motown. She’s also slated to star alongside Denzel Washington in a televised version of Wilson’s play “Fences.” What sparks her interest are roles that take her out of her comfort zone, but also show the entire experience of being a woman. “I think women are very complicated human beings,” she says, “and I think there’s an oversimplification of women when you see them on screen.” She’s particularly tired of romantic comedies, where the girls are “kinda quirky” and haven’t dated in a while. “I always to want to say, Who are you really?

And there’s beauty in that.” That’s what she says she found in Annalise, the role that’s now brought her that impressive hardware. “It’s given me a way to show womanhood and a leading lady in a different way — and given me a place to shine — than I had in film,” she says. Davis credits the creative team at Shondaland — run by uber-producer Shonda Rhimes — with letting her create an iconic character who can let her hair down. In a now infamous scene from last season, Davis dared to go bare: She removed her wig, peeled off her false eyelashes, and took off her makeup. “I feel the same way about Shondaland I feel about Africa and Greece,” Davis says. “I feel pretty in both places. And there are open arms stretched out to greet me.” One of the biggest of TV’s unwritten rules that she broke was about the structure of the show itself: She asked for — and got — a 15-episode run.

I will forever be a better writer for working with her.” Nowalk says he knew he’d met his match when he began working with the Oscar nominee. “I saw the first few episodes and realized how much she was diving in, and that the depths and layers she was bringing to the role would be impactful,” he says. Of the award itself, he marvels simply, “It’s historic in a way I can’t even comprehend.” And now that she’s an Emmy winner, the show’s stakes have only gotten higher. “Since the beginning, the thing that has kept me up at night is writing material that is worthy of Viola,” Nowalk says. “And that doesn’t change.” There are showrunners who believe their words are precious, and don’t let their stars alter a word.

And that’s not necessarily who we are in life.” “When you’re in a TV show that can span who knows how many seasons, you have to always be in the process of not limiting your character, putting them in a box. We’re both brave and bold enough to always push the envelope.” That’s what makes the character relatable to women, Davis explains. “Her being strong in her professional life and weak somewhat in her personal life — I think a lot of women can relate to that,” she says. “It’s those two masks that we wear all the time.” “I don’t know if I could have handled all this when I was 23,” she says. “For a fact, I could not have.” She lists the struggles she’s faced — the death of her father, rejection, failure, unemployment, making just $120 a week — and then, ultimately, finding joy in her work. “All of that has brought me to the point of being on the stage with that Emmy with all of that energy coming at me. Being able to handle it, that’s what life gives you.” That said, she wishes millennials in the profession could be a bit more patient. “Nobody wants to experience anything anymore,” she says. “They have a sense of entitlement. You can handle it.” So what would she say to that 6-year-old girl competing in Miss Central Falls? “I was always trying to be like everybody else,” she says. “So now when I look back at her, I’d say, ‘She is fabulous exactly the way she is.’ ”

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