Viola Davis won Best Drama Actress at the Emmys for “How to Get Away with Murder” in 2015, and she’s back to defend her title in 2016. To do so, she has submitted as her sample episode “There’s My Baby,” in which a flashback reveals that her character, defense attorney Annalise Keating, was in a car crash that caused the stillbirth of her child. “I love that episode,” she told us when she chatted with us back in June, a month before nominations were announced (watch the complete interview above). “I thought it showed a vulnerability in Annalise that was unexpected, and I loved her confessional with [her student Wes about how his mother really died].”
Annalise has been a mystery from the very beginning of “How to Get Away with Murder,” but season two peeled back more of the layers of how she became the “enigmatic and hard” woman she is. Those revelations didn’t made Annalise likable, per se, but that’s fine with Davis.
“I’ve found since I’ve been on TV that a lot of times people have such a need to like you, and especially when you’re a woman,” she explains. “I don’t think they have the same need for James Gandolfini in ‘The Sopranos’ or Anthony Hopkins in ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ There’s an understanding when you come to the plate when it’s a man that you’re agreeing to go along for the ride, and you’re going along with their complexity and that’s what I’m doing.”
Davis’s Emmy win in 2015 was historic because she was the first black actress ever to win Best Drama Actress. This year the TV academy continued to make strides when it comes to diverse representation — not just in the repeat nominations for Davis and her Drama Actress rival Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), but also in multiple bids for “Black-ish,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Master of None” and many more.
So is the industry getting better when it comes to giving opportunities to a wider variety of people? “I think we’re getting it, and I’m praying it continues. I’m praying it’s not just a fad,” she says. People “want to see their own images, to want to see themselves reflected in art. I’m hopeful.”
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