There’s a reason lots of actors play lawyers and lots of awards voters honor them: those speeches! What’s a closing argument but an impassioned plea for justice delivered to a captive audience? An actor’s dream. Viola Davis got to sum up her entire six-year run on “How to Get Away with Murder” with one such speech (watch it above). Will it pay dividends for her again at the Emmys?
“Murder” creator Peter Nowalk tweeted about that climactic speech that he and Davis “started our first conversation talking about the masks we all wear. Six years later, I’ve learned most of my job is listening.” He wrote that into Davis’s summation as lawyer Annalise Keating defended herself against murder charges by letting down her guard and showing the jury who she really is behind the masks she has worn to protect herself all her life.
Davis already has one Emmy for this role: she prevailed in 2015 by submitting to television academy judges the first-season episode “Freakin’ Whack-a-Mole” in which she furiously argues before the Supreme Court to save an innocent man from death row. And she’s not the only legal eagle who has made their case before awards judges. Just look at the dozens of actors who have won prizes for David E. Kelley shows including three-time Best Drama Actor winner James Spader (“The Practice” and “Boston Legal”), who was known for his courtroom oratories.
In just the last 12 years, two other women won Best Drama Actress twice for playing crusading lawyers: Glenn Close (“Damages”) as the ethically compromised Patty Hewes and Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) as the more upstanding Alicia Florrick. Annalise Keating’s moral compass falls somewhere in the middle of those two characters, but don’t take it from me, she told the jury just that in the “Murder” finale, and she won that case.
Davis has been nominated five times overall for this performance: four for Best Drama Actress and one for Best Drama Guest Actress when she brought the character to “Scandal” for a special crossover appearance. That means Davis has been nominated for playing Annalise every single year she has been eligible (2015-2019). And Emmy Expert Thelma Adams (Gold Derby) thinks this year will be no exception. After six years, Annalise rests her case.
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