Emmys
Emmys Viola Davis History

Emmys 2015: Viola Davis Makes History, Thanks Those Who 'Redefine What It Means to Be Black'

Viola Davis gave a speech ever fitting the monumental occasion, when at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday she became the first African-American to grab gold in the Lead Actress in a Drama category.

Evoking revered abolitionist/humanitarian Harriet Tubman to start, the How to Get Away With Murder star said, “I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me… but I can’t seem to get there no how.”

Davis went on to say to the crowd, “Let me tell you something — the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

“So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people — [Disney/ABC Television Group president] Ben Sherwood, [ABC president] Paul Lee, [HTGAWM creator] Pete Nowalk, [Shondland boss] Shonda Rhimes — people that redefine what it means to be beautiful, sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black,” she continued. Then with a nod to fellow nominees and other peers, she said: “To the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Megan Goods, to Gabrielle Union… thank you for taking us over that line.”

Earlier during the Emmys telecast, American Crime‘s Regina King won for Supporting Actress in a Limited Series, while Orange Is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba was named Best Supporting Actress in a Drama.

Backstage after accepting her Emmy, Davis was asked about the recent Project Greenlight controversy stemming from Matt Damon’s attempt to survey racism in Hollywood hiring decisions. “People don’t know how to discuss race,” she said. “People need to understand that there is a line, and there is a difference when it comes to actors of color in this business. If it’s been 67 years since an actress of color has won an Emmy, then there’s certainly a line and it needs to be acknowledged, just like the emperor being naked in the room.”

What did you think of Davis’ historical win and speech?

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40 Comments
  1. tom says:

    Viola Davis is one beautiful and class act. I was pulling for her win. I can’t wait for TGIT.

  2. JP says:

    Class act all the way.. That scene with Cicely Tyson alone was enough to win the Emmy this year.. She had the best speech of the night by far, and very fitting for the moment. Congrats Viola

  3. Melissa says:

    Pure class.

  4. MyFairLady says:

    Awesome speech from Viola and a very well deserved win.
    Viola is beautiful & regal…whoever has told her otherwise in the past is ridiculous.

    • RealityEngineer says:

      Viola didn’t remotely deserve this, she isn’t in the same league as Tatiana Maslany. I usually suspend my disbelief when watching shows so well that I tune out the quality of the acting and don’t pay attention to it. Her show this year was one of the rare exceptions where I barely managed to sit through her overacting (along with other poor performances in the show). I was frankly stunned to realize anyone liked her performance, let alone to see her win an award when all the others deserved it more than she did. Another rare exception was Tatiana Maslany who should have won. Her ability to make you forget the same actress is playing multiple characters and her nuanced performances was remarkable, it is one of the rare cases I’ve ever commented on the quality of anyone’s acting. I can only imagine how badly Viola Davis would do in a similar situation, she simply doesn’t have the same range and polish to pull of subtle touches like playing one character posing as another. I know people’s tastes vary which I guess explains it. Its just like some people prefer speakers that are accurate, others prefer speakers that boost sound in unnatural ways that they happen to like.

      I’m not sure if some people are so “tone deaf” that they need to be beaten over the head with “ACTING!” or “DRAMA!” or something for things to sink in and go for the performance of someone like Viola Davis or if there were some “experts” that claim she is a good actress and the clueless all go along, or what explains it.

      • Jinjeon says:

        The tape system is over so people like Tatiana Maslany will never win an Emmy. Now it’s all about who’s the most popular one. Shame because Emmys were the only awards where people watched the nominated work now it’s another popularity contest like SAG and Golden Globes.

      • liame says:

        I guess there’s too many of her they don’t know who to vote for. :/. She still young, I’m sure more roles will come her way, it may take 20+years, but I’m sure she’ll get what she deserves.

      • robandco says:

        Yes, they aren’t in the same league but you got it wrong. Tatiana is an amazing actress, I recently watched Oprhan Black and was amazed by her talent, but she is nowhere close Viola Davis. Yes, Tatiana can play multiple characters brilliantly in such way that you automatically know which one it is even when they pretend to be someone else, but she is lacking in term of emotion IMO. She lacks depth. She lacks what Davis brings to the table. People tend to forget that she acts every character one at a time, often on different days or several hours apart, with time to prepare. We only see then brilliantly put together by the final cut. It’s a bit tricky.
        I don’t know which scene each woman submitted, but I can’t think of any scene in which Tatiana acts better than Viola.

        • MyFairLady says:

          My thoughts exactly….Somethng lacks inTatiana’s characters. Viola brings complexity to the character & has the power to make you feel what Annalise is feeling…

      • Lukam says:

        there is NO WAY that Tatiana would have won this year, especially against Viola Davis whose immense talent basically saved by itself the mediocre show she’s in.
        Besides, this year Tatiana was overshadowed also by Elisabeth Moss and possibly by a third actress in the nominees.

      • MyFairLady says:

        It seems you are the clueless one. Not every actress has to play different characters to deserve an Emmy win and I’m glad that Tatiana did not win because I watch and love both shows but Tatiana does not come close to Viola’s portrayal of Annalise or even Taraji’s Cookie…or even Eva green or Vera Farmiga (even though they were not nominated).
        I’m pretty confident that Tatiana will never win an Emmy for this role because actress like Robin Wright, Viola, Taraji or even Julianna M have her beat by a mile…even though they are portraying just one character.

  5. LADY_in_MD says:

    She spoke beautifully looked beautiful and deserved the win! Can’t wait for Thursday!

  6. Spence says:

    By far the best speech of the night, possibly the best speech I’ve ever seen at an awards show. Kerry and Taraji’s reactions were also beautiful.

  7. tahimar says:

    Viola made it all worth waiting after such a boring night for me. What a beautiful and meaning speech specially in these dark days were living in.

  8. Ron says:

    Viola is spectacular! Such a deserving win. And that speech was so moving, intelligent, and important. One of the best–if not the best–speeches of the entire night! Not that I would expect any different; all of her acceptance speeches in the past have always been the highlights.

  9. DarkDefender says:

    The speech was spot on and I am happy for her win, but I really thought Tatiana Maslany should have won.

  10. Lucifer says:

    She definitely deserved it, but comparing herself or her Hollywood “struggle” to Harriet Tubman was ridiculous to say the least.

    • Fay says:

      What’s with quotes around the word struggle? You don’t think actors of color have had to struggle to succeed in Hollywood?

      • Lucifer says:

        No, I do believe actors who are not white have definitely struggled due to lack of roles. However, Davis has a flourishing movie and now television career and has had one for quite some time. So it doesn’t seem to be a struggle for her to get roles.

      • tvjunkie says:

        Not in the last 20 years. At least not on the scale of that comparison.

      • Mary says:

        I think all actors not matter the color have had to struggle to succeed. Not a easy business. Good Women roles of substance are hard to achieve also. Hollywood is and probably will always be a “Man World”.

        • Lucifer says:

          The demand for complex and diverse female roles has been around for decades and has given some of the most impressive and memorable characters in television and film. There might be less leading roles for women in big studio films, but television is wildly different and women certainly seem to be dominating leading roles at this time.

          • the girl says:

            Not always Black women. Just because there is a wealth of Black women succeeding in leading roles on television right now… it wasn’t like that just six years ago.

  11. John Davis says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

  12. Steven says:

    I almost cried when Taraji ran up to give Viola a hug. Kerry Washington’s reaction nearly got me as well. I know a lot of people on Tumblr are upset that Tatiana Maslany lost, but Viola really did deserve this award.

  13. SayNay says:

    Viola Davis is amazing. I’m definitely happy for her win. I really hope Tatiana Maslany gets it next year. The fact that she was even nominated has been a feat in of itself. Also someone at Fox needs to be fired. Why does it take an actress from a competing network to basically backdoor promote (via Nicole Beharie shoutout) one of Fox’s own shows when they had 3 hours to do so in the broadcast?!

  14. Yeah says:

    I do like Viola but I get irritated when she says women of color constantly only to mean black actresses. What? Other minority groups don’t qualify as women of color? They also have their struggles and no Hispanic or Asian women has won the lead either.

    • liame says:

      Not for nothing but I don’t see many Hispanic or Asian woman who consider themselves woman of color unless there’s a movie or tv role involved. I’ve worked with numerous women of different ethnicity’s throughout my career and believe me they’d rather be known as Latina and Asian because they feel they’re more accepted by the white race. This comment may not be popular with some, but this is my experience, not yours.

    • Mary says:

      I am glad she won, thought she was deserving. However; I know I am going to get backlash for this – but why does everything have to be turned into race issue.

      • tvjunkie says:

        Politics. Gotta push the liberal agenda and what better way to do it than play the race card even when it’s not really the issue.

      • MyFairLady says:

        There were other causes being pushed e.g Climate change, LGBT, gender equality so why not race. Race equality issues are not meant to make anyone feel bad but to raise awareness and push for positive change.

      • Jamie says:

        She was the first black woman in history to receive this award. She acknowledged that. I don’t understand what the problem is.

  15. Andrea says:

    Rock on for Viola! She’s awesome in HTGAWM!

  16. side3 says:

    Any Emmy voter who voted for Viola Davis over Tatiana Maslany obviously did not actually watch Orphan Black. As soon as the word ‘viola’ came out of the presenters mouth, I turned off the TV. Unfortunately, any amazing performance with any sort of sci-fi element will get discounted. That’s why John Noble did not even receive a nomination for “Fringe”.

  17. She only won because she’s black & that is a fact ….. The Emmy awards are all political crap,and everyone know’s it.

  18. Bob Backus says:

    Spent the night watching the 1st season of How to get away with murder on netflix instead of the ME ME ME ME Awards. Don’t know why anyone watches a bunch of rich people being told how wonderful they are when all the do is play let’s pretend. I’d rather watch their shows then this stupid ME crap.

  19. herman1959 says:

    No surprise there, Viola had it sewn up! That said, I have to remark on the number of negative posters here. I understand that everyone has different tastes and that Ms. Maslany has a large (and vocal) fanbase, but these bitter comments against Viola Davis are coming off as PERSONAL

  20. Jolie Samone says:

    I thought it well needed, and awesome.