At the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Viola Davis made history. She is the first African-American woman to receive the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Davis won for her role as the professor and defense attorney Annalise Keating in ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder."
Although she has nearly three decades of credits and two Oscar nominations under her belt, Davis appeared both surprised and honored to even be among the nominees.
“You guys have to realize, I’ve been in this business 35 years and 27 years professionally," Davis commented backstage, according to Entertainment Weekly. "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.”
During her acceptance speech, she shed light on an important issue -- the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
“Let me tell you something: the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," she said during her Emmy speech. "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
She went on to thank her fellow colleagues and other actress of color, "for taking us over that line," referring to the Harriet Tubman quote she referenced early in her speech.
“When you go to acting school and study Chekhov and Shakespeare and Arthur Miller and August Wilson, you just think that the sky is the limit in terms of how you can portray a human being,” she added backstage. “It’s only until you get out there in your profession that people say you can only be a judge, you’re not cute enough to be a leading lady, you can only be a doctor, you can only be authoritative, you can only be what we define as black.”
She and her husband, Julius Tennon, have started a production company to try to pave the way for other actors of color.
"My story doesn't end here," Davis said. "There is so much work that needs to be done in so many areas in the business with actors of color. So many narratives that need to be seen by people, so many stories that need to be seen and felt, that I know that it doesn’t end here."