By Angel Johnson, Contributing Writer
On Feb. 8th, Emmy winner Viola Davis presented a lecture to 16 hundred students at California State University Northridge (CSUN). Lately, she has been breaking social norms and paving the way for women of color to play more versatile roles in Hollywood. She currently plays the role of Annalise Keating, a law professor, on the hit show “How To Get Away With Murder.”
Davis shared her story about how she grew up in poverty during the Jim Crow era. The apartment her family lived in was run down and rat-infested.
“We would go to bed and wake up to our toys (dolls) missing heads because the rats ate them during the night,” Davis said.
When she went to school she was bullied and called derogatory names.
"Everyday, there were eight or nine boys that would curse and throw rocks or bricks at me," she said.
When Davis returned home it wasn't any better, she often witnessed her dad beat her mother. But she isn’t ashamed of her past because the hardships she faced growing up shaped her into the woman she is today.
“It was really nice to hear where she came from, where she is now, and the goals she has for herself in the future,” said Beverly, Ntagu, a junior studying psychology at CSUN. “It makes me feel better about struggling now; it’s going to be worth it in the end.”
From a young age she knew she wanted to act, it was an escape for her. She acted in school plays, attended Juilliard and worked her way up in Hollywood. Though she is in Hollywood she still deals with the insecurities from her past.
During the pilot show of “How to Get Away with Murder” she was excited to see the outcome of her role. But once the pilot started she quickly began to critique herself, from her walk to her muscular body. In the middle of watching the episode, Davis paused and thought to herself what if her walk and her body is what makes her beautiful, powerful and appealing.
On the show Davis gets to act with the woman who inspired her to become an actress, Cicely Tyson. Tyson plays Annalise's mother. “How To Get Away With Murder” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.