Golden Globes nominee profile: Viola Davis (‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’) could win second time for August Wilson adaptation

Viola Davis has been nominated for six Golden Globes to date, winning in 2017 for her supporting film role in the screen adaptation of August Wilson‘s play “Fences.” Four years on she could bookend that prize with a second Globe for yet another film based on one of Wilson’s classic plays — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

At the February 28 ceremony, Davis faces off against Andra Day (“The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) in the race for Best Drama Actress. Of this group, McDormand is the only other previous category winner (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) while Mulligan was nominated for “An Education.” Day and Kirby celebrate their first nominations this year.

In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Davis plays the titular character, a fiery and influential blues legend who joins her band for a recording session in 1920s Chicago. Tensions rise when Ma arrives late and engages in both a musical and romantic tug-of-war with her cornet player Levee (Chadwick Boseman), who has an ear for changing Ma’s musical arrangements and an eye for her girlfriend. Davis embodies the fearless diva and gives a knockout performance in the Netflix film, drenched in sweat and over-the-top makeup while she belts out rich, soulful music and asserts her power over her band and music producers.

SEE 2021 Golden Globes nominations list: Nominees for 78th annual ceremony

Clearly adored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Davis was nominated four times prior to winning for “Fences.” Her first bid came in 2009 for Best Film Supporting Actress in “Doubt.” That was followed by a 2012 nom for Best Drama Actress in “The Help” and a pair of nominations in 2015-2016 for TV Drama Actress in “How to Get Away With Murder.” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” received two nominations from the Globes. In addition to Davis’s bid, Boseman will compete in the Best Drama Actor category for playing Ma’s bright-eyed adversary, Levee.

In addition to her Globe nomination, Davis is in the running at both the Critics Choice and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. With a win at the Globes she’d become the 16th actress to have both lead and supporting actress prizes for different films. The Golden Globes will air live coast-to-coast on February 28 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBC.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Golden Globes nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders in film and TV.

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