'Shonda Rhimes has redefined what it means for a dark-skinned woman to be a leading lady on television,' says Viola Davis of How To Get Away With Murder
How To Get Away With Murder Season 6 isn't available in India on the streaming app Netflix. However, if you are a fan and want to know what happens next in the final season of the series then just tune into Star World. Before you do that, read onto know more about Viola Davis who plays Annalise Keating, the protagonist. Viola talks about her life, the series, and more.
What was your childhood like?
Well, it was like everyone’s childhood filled with happy memories, playing with my sister, bicycling around. But it was also filled with the darkness. When you are poor, you have bad housing. We lived in condemned buildings, in Rhode Island. And these were certainly apartments infested with rats. The stigma of poverty, the feeling of the outside, feeling invisible, and the lack of access - are topics I talk about all the time (because I have lived in such conditions). And it is uncomfortable for me, it really is. I started acting when I was eight or nine, we would write scripts, we would re-write. We would even have wardrobe budgets.
Do you have moments when you stop in your life and look back at the little girl from Rhode Island, and look at your present life and go ‘I don’t know how I got here?’
Every single day. Do you know when I think about her a lot? When I open my refrigerator. When I flush my toilet. When I can put a robe on. When I have hot running water. She is with me every day to understand that every little thing in my life is to be celebrated.
How was your first experience at Broadway? Your Broadway debut was The Seven Guitars.
Yes, The Seven Guitars. When I think about everything I believed an actor was, that was it. My mom and dad in the audience and my dad crying. And I was like ‘This is it, I have arrived.’
What was it like, to jump into movies from the stage?
I always say that all you have to do in a movie is to sustain a performance for 30 seconds. When you’re on stage, you can have a 12-page scene and there are no edit buttons. So it was much different. And when you’re acting opposite someone like Meryl Streep, in the film Doubt, you are standing there going ‘but I am Viola Davis, I’m good.’ But you are also thinking ‘Oh my god, it’s Meryl Streep,’ by the time this sinks in, you hear the words, ‘cut, cut.’
Talking about the show, when it was initially pitched to you, was it called How To Get Away with Murder, or did that come later on?
No, that came later on. And you know what, my ego, I said that the title is going to be the name of my character. And that was when my name was Annalise Dewitt. And I said I don’t seem like an Annalise Dewitt.
Do you audition for anything anymore? And when was the last time you auditioned for something?
No. Actually I haven’t. Oh, and the last time I auditioned, was for The Help.
How did working on this series help you? How was your experience?
I think that a huge turning point in my life was How to Get Away with Murder. Sometimes people have to give you permission to see yourself as better or more than what you are, or what you think you are. That job gave me permission to see my womanhood and all of my womanhood. You have to realize that I am a product of a culture that has dictated who I am. A dark-skinned, black woman with lips and a nose, and a deep voice. So what I’ve been told my whole life is what it means to be a woman and so all of a sudden, Annalise comes in like a whirling dervish and she is all of it. She is messy, she is almost sociopathic, she’s sexual, she’s mysterious and highly intelligent, she’s a big personality, she’s all of those adjectives that are not associated with me and all of a sudden I’ve got to play her.
This is going to be the final season, what all are you going to miss? And how does it feel to reach the end of this beautiful show?
I will miss Annalise Keating, and I’ll miss the people I worked with. I think that the best part of what we do is relationships. It just is. You remember the relationships more than the work. But I’ll miss Annalise Keating, I don’t know if I’m going to meet someone like her again. I think that being a dark-skinned woman on a network TV in a lead role, this is a role, Shonda Rhimes has redefined what it means to be a leading lady. I will miss that about her.
Nobody really understands TV scheduling unless you’re in it, especially being number one. There’s a part of me that says ‘Oh, great I am done. I have time for getting my life back, I can spend time with my daughter, my husband, sleep more.’ And then the other part of it is just saying goodbye to a show that has really changed my career and also shifted the face of television. I think what I am most proud of is that my character has redefined womanhood and how we see it on screen. It has usually been very thin, white women that we see on screen, of a certain age but they had never been in a body like mine. And why not. Sometimes, culture can inform the art, and sometimes, art can inform the culture. It has been six seasons so you get a chance to say goodbye as opposed to it being just a brook. And that’s always a great gift and now that it has come, it sorts of creeps up on you. I thought I was ready for it. I don’t think we’re ever ready for goodbye, especially when something has shifted your life.
The sixth and final season of How to Get Away with Murder will be airing in India after August 15 on Star World