On September 20, Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a television drama series for her critically acclaimed work in How To Get Away With Murder (Thursday nights, ABC). Rising from the ShondaLand factory of enormously successful shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, HTGAWM shocks, titillates and entertains .
Four days after this stunning win, Davis’ character Annalise Keating became the first black bisexual female lead in a major prime-time television show. The season 2 opener will have you at the edge of your seat with your heart in your throat as the show continues to solve the mystery of who killed Rebecca at the end of last season.
But then came the sweet revelation that Annalise used to be the romantic partner of another woman…wait, that’s Phoenix from the X-Men series! Annalise Keating is bisexual. She used to live in New York with a woman named Eve (played by Famke Janssen of X-Men and Taken trilogies) and they are still hot for each other.
Will the show treat bisexuality as a legitimate identity and give it the richness and complexity the subject deserves? That remains to be seen. Davis herself did not use the B word when addressing a question about diversity on television during her backstage interview at the Emmys. She uses the catch-all phrase: “gay, lesbian and transgender community.”
Viola Davis was born on her grandmother’s farm in St. Matthews, South Carolina. When she was two months old her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where her father, Dan Davis, worked as a horse groomer and trainer. Her mother, Mary Alice (Logan), a maid and factory worker, was also a civil rights activist. Davis studied theater at Rhode Island College, and also attended the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City.
She made her screen debut as a nurse in 1996’s The Substance of Fire (1996). Guest spots followed in TV shows and films, and in 2000 she won the role of Nurse Lynnette Peeler in City of Angels (2000). In 2001, Davis appeared on Broadway in the play, ‘King Hedley II’, for which she was awarded a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Davis has worked with Steven Soderbergh on three films – Traffic (2000), Solaris (2002) and Syriana (2005). Other work includes: Far from Heaven (2002), Antwone Fisher (2002) and Disturbia (2007). In 2008, she played Mrs. Miller in Doubt (2008), for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. In 2011, she won critical acclaim for her starring role as Aibileen Clark in the box-office hit The Help (2011).