Viola Davis is still reveling in her Emmy win and making history as the first black woman to win for lead actress in a drama. In her post-Emmy interview and as the cover model for this week’s issue of Variety, Davis said she’s still in disbelief.
“I keep expecting to be that little girl who loses the contest,” Davis told Variety. “It’s a mixture of disbelief and joy and acceptance. It’s just beautiful.”
Davis recalled growing up poor in Rhode Island and how the Emmy win isn’t just for her but for little black girls all over the world.
“It’s not just the award. It’s what it’s going to mean to young girls—young brown girls, especially. When they saw a physical manifestation of a dream, I felt like I had fulfilled a purpose,” Davis said.
And if there’s one brown girl who’s proud, it’s her young daughter, Genesis, who posted a message on Davis’ Instagram after her win.
Davis isn’t new to Hollywood or its politics. Most tend to think she’s only been in the game for a couple of years, but she set the record straight to reporters after her win.
“You guys have to realize, I’ve been in this business 35 years, and 27 years professionally,” she told reporters. “I’m the journeyman actor that you saw in one scene here, two scenes there. I’ve been eking out a living doing theater—Broadway, off-Broadway—film supporting roles, that I’m just excited to be a part of the conversation.”
And she’s not just a part of the conversation; she’s a major part of it. As part of Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT lineup, Davis is about to embark on a new season as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder, the show that catapulted her to the Emmy win, and she credits ShondaLand for everything.
“I feel the same way about ShondaLand I feel about Africa and Greece,” Davis said. “I feel pretty in both places. Men look at me like I’m a novelty, and women think I’m just cool. I feel absolutely at home immediately. I’m not altering myself to fit in. I’m walking in just as I am. And there are open arms stretched out to greet me.”
Davis was asked what she would tell her 6-year-old self now after years of hard work and sacrifices. And what she said is another reason Davis is a role model for everyone: “I was always trying to be like everybody else. So now when I look back at her, I’d say, ‘She is fabulous exactly the way she is.’”