Viola Davis


It's a good day to be Viola Davis.

The How to Get Away With Murder actress married Julius Tennon on June 23, 2003, and to celebrate, Davis posted a photo of herself with her husband on Twitter. "To my partner, my love, my best decision in life, Happy 12th Anniversary!! 'Grow old with me. The best is yet to be,'" she wrote, quoting poet Robert Browning.

The happy couple adopted a daughter, Genesis, in October 2011.

A wedding anniversary isn't all Davis had to celebrate today, as the SAG Award winner also appeared on The Wrap's "Insiders Guide to All Things Emmys" cover.

Nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards won't be announced until July 16, but industry experts are betting that Davis is a shoe-in to earn an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination. In television's No. 2 rated drama, Davis stars as Annalise Keating, an enigmatic litigator and law professor. For the Tony-winning and Oscar-nominated actress, this is the role of a lifetime—and she knows it, too!

"I read the character and it was unlike anything that I've played before. She's sexy. She's not maternal. I get a lot of maternal characters. So I thought it was a chance to step outside of my comfort zone," recalled Davis, who said she wanted "to see what it feels like to really carry a show" as a leading actress.

Because the series can be "salacious," Davis had to ground her character.

"I feel like Annalise is familiar. Taking her wig off, me not being a Size 2, me being obviously 49. I always say I hold it up for the regular people out there. There's still something very human in each episode, and when I say 'human,' I mean flawed.  Things that we probably do in private that we don't want anyone else to see. But when we see it in actors and when we see it onscreen, it makes us feel less alone. And I felt like which each episode I tried to at least achieve that in the midst of this kind of pop fiction," Davis said. "And I think that's why people root for her."

One scene that resonated with viewers and critics alike showed Annalise removing her makeup and her wig after a major betrayal. "I didn't want to be the Vogue woman...Every time you see that sexual, mysterious, kind of cold woman, she always looks like she has that blow-dried hair and that dewy skin and, you know, those 00 clothes. I did not want to be that woman because I don't know that woman. And I've been watching that woman in movies for several years. And I felt like this was my chance to woman up. Because I think that how we are as women, just in real life, is very interesting," she explained. "And I think that in the hands of a woman—and I'd like to think that, in my professional life anyway, I have a certain braveness and boldness—I want to present women as they really are."

"I remember one woman wrote me after that scene when I take the wig off, 'That's me except I still have the retainer in my mouth.' It's not always about being pretty. But it is about uncovering and feeling comfortable with the way we are and the way we look when we're in private. You know, as soon as you walk through the door, what do you do? You take off your bra, you let your titties sag, you let your hair come off—I mean my hair. I mean, I don't have any eyebrows. I let my eyebrows be exactly what they are. And it's me. And I wanted that scene to be somewhere in the narrative of Annalise. That who she is in her public life and who she was in her private life were absolutely, completely diametrically opposed to one another. Because that's who we are as people. We wear the mask that grins and lies."

The scene was shot in one take.

"I didn't feel like putting that makeup on again," Davis said with a laugh.

With every role she takes, including How to Get Away With Murder, "I always feel it's my responsibility as an artist to be as honest as possible... I want to do something that hasn't been done before with women of color. We like women of color when they're sassy, when they're maternal, when they're bold, when they are exactly who they are. You know, there's no mystery about them. And I do feel a certain responsibility to be none of that. To be none of it." As an actress, she added, "I don't want to have any structure. I don't want to have any kind of reins put on me."

Most importantly, she said, "I want to be absolutely human in my role."

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