Viola Davis is unquestionably one of the best working actresses. She has a strength and intense presence that makes it so viewers can’t take their eyes off of her. She has been the subject of arguments about why Hollywood has underutilized her to an almost criminal degree. But when she does act in something, she nails it.
But no longer will people wonder when they will see Davis again, for she is starring in the new ABC series, How to Get Away With Murder, which premieres Thursday, September 25. Davis, 49, stars as a law professor at a prestigious Philadelphia university who gets entwined in a murder with some of her students. Murder is another Shonda Rhimes-produced show (Greys Anatomy, Private Practice) and between Rhimes and Davis, it is surely going to be a hit.
In honor of the new program, let’s look back at some of Davis’s best roles.
1) The Help – Aibileen Clark (2011)
This is perhaps Davis’s most well known role. She starred in the film as a maid and nanny who was more of a mother to her clients, even more than the mothers themselves. Aibileen helped raise 17 children during her years as maid and she agrees to help Skeeter write her newspaper column, which eventually leads to interviews focused on the life of a maid in Jackson. Aibileen helps open an entire new world for Skeeter and for viewers as well. Her performance was incredibly moving and led her to be nominated for a Best Lead Actress Oscar, Golden Globe, and countless other awards.
2) Doubt – Mrs. Miller (2008)
Davis received another Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actress) for her role in this Meryl Streep-starring film. Davis played the mother of the child who presumably was sexual abused by a Catholic school priest, played by the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Mrs. Miller’s shocks the concerned nun (Streep) with her lack of interest in the alleged misconduct. As far as she is concerned, Donald need only last to the end of the school year, as graduation from a prestigious church school would increase his chances of going to a decent high school. Mrs. Miller begs that Sister Aloysius drop the matter, feeling that Father Flynn is a source of inspiration to Donald and a shield from the abuse he receives at home. She even got angry when Sister Aloysius refuses to compromise and threatens to throw Donald out of the school. Davis was excellent in the role.
3) Eat Pray Love – Delia Shiraz (2010)
Davis played the best friend of lead character, Liz, played by Julia Roberts. Davis wasn’t in much of the movie but she had phenomenal chemistry with her leading lady and perfectly balanced Liz, who was frazzled and upset at times, with her calm and nurturing presence.
4) United States of Tara – Lynda P. Frazier (2010)
This excellent Showtime program cast Davis for its second season. She played an unconventional artist who plays a significant role in the lives of Tara (Toni Collette) and her daughter Kate (Brie Larson).
5) Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – Donna Emmett (2003-2008)
Davis played Emmett, a New York defense attorney. She went up against the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on several occasions over the course of several seasons.
(Lead Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)