SAG winner Viola Davis takes on diversity and expectations

Viola Davis accepts her SAG Award for"How to Get Away With Murder" at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday.

Viola Davis accepts her SAG Award for”How to Get Away With Murder” at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Annalise Keating may not be a hero, but Viola Davis just might be.

Davis has won an Emmy, an NAACP Image Award, and two Screen Actors Guild awards for her performance as Keating, a charismatic if conniving law professor on ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.” Saturday she spoke openly during her acceptance speech about the challenges of getting people to come to terms with who the character is, instead of who they perceive her to be.

“People are always saying, ‘Wow, Annalise is an antihero,’ and ‘Don’t you worry she’s not likable?’ and ‘Don’t you worry she’s not a mentor?’” Davis said, before continuing, “And I always think, why do I have to be a hero? Why do you have to like me? Why do I have to be a mentor? My job as an actor is to create a human being to the best of my ability. Flawed, messy, maybe not always likable, maybe not always cute.”

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But as much as that might ring true of her character, it couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to Davis herself.

Throughout her time at Sunday night’s SAG awards, Davis shared insight about diversity with gathered journalists.

“We’ve become a society of trending topics. Diversity is not a trending topic. It’s just not. All the actors of color I know don’t place any limitations on themselves. Regardless of what’s going on with the Academy, regardless of what’s going on in Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and always will.”

Hear from actors at the SAG Awards as they walk the red carpet and discuss diversity in Hollywood.

Davis also weighed in on the pending Oscars boycott, saying that whatever people choose to do regarding the Academy Awards is immaterial and what really counts is what they do at the box office.

“Plop your money down to see ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘Dope’ and ‘Selma.’ Support directors like Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels, Spike Lee. Their stores are just as valid and important as anyone else’s. That’s more important than boycotting.”


Ultimately, Davis points out, stories about people of color are just stories about people.

“I think that sometimes people feel like stories of people of color are not inclusive. They are. The works of August Wilson is everyone’s story. When you watch Annalise, she’s not just a black woman. She’s a woman going through life.”

The thoughts Davis shares are simple but her words speak volumes. You may not like Annalise Keating, but it’s pretty hard not to like Viola Davis.

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