Viola Davis may not have had the easiest childhood, but her mother was a positive role model who showed her that change is possible! As People shares, Davis recently opened up in a new interview about what her upbringing was like, and how her mom's outlook on life informed her own desire to push past barriers.
Davis talks mom's persistence in fight for social welfare
Davis mentioned that right from a young age, she would accompany her mother at protests. "One in particular was at Brown University. The police threw us in the paddy wagon, and I was crying. I was 5 or 6 years old," the actress told AARP the Magazine. "I was a crybaby! It was all about welfare reform. She was the only African-American in the group, but she and several women, working-poor parents, showed up to fight for reform so we could have a more self-sufficient way of life."
Thanks to her mom's perseverance, Davis and the other kids in her community were able to learn some valuable life skills. "They got a health center built right next door to the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program," she shared. "We all went to after-school programs there for as long as I can remember, with sewing, crocheting, knitting, nutrition classes. That's all we were allowed to do. My mom said, 'Y'all are gong to be at those classes every Tuesday through Friday after school.'"
Davis shares why her new role "Ma Rainey" is empowering
Davis also encountered a great deal of racial prejudice growing up. As People mentions, the magazine mentions that Davis felt alienated from her classmates as a young Black girl in a school that was mostly white. However, her own perseverance led her to earn top grades and land her a spot at the prestigious Juilliard School, which is ultimately where she became an actress!
Starring in many notable movies and television shows, such as Fences and How to Get Away with Murder, there's no doubt that Davis has been successful in her chosen career path! Next month, she can be seen opposite the late Chadwick Boseman in the upcoming Netflix film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom— which both actors have already garnered quite a bit of critical praise for— and the actress shared what drew her to the titular role.
"She was unapologetic about her sexuality, unapologetic in terms of her value as a recording artists, and in terms of what she wanted, unapologetic about her blackness," Davis told AARP the Magazine of her character, "Ma Rainey". "I think today she would be considered a liberated woman in every way, a woman before her time." Playing a woman who refuses to apologize for who she is seems like a natural fit for Davis, given her own resilience— a trait which she certainly picked up from her mom!