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?