The NY Times wrote this beautiful opinion piece on Viola’s role as Annalise Keating ahead of the series finale.
“How to Get Away With Murder” is coming to an end, leaving behind a groundbreaking legacy.
It was the gasp heard in millions of living rooms around the country.
Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. During the fourth episode of “How to Get Away With Murder,” Annalise Keating, the legal wizard and law professor played brilliantly by Viola Davis, finds herself at a crossroads. Submersed in inner turmoil, she faces one of the biggest and most terrifying questions of her marriage: Did her husband, Sam, kill the pregnant college student with whom he was having an affair?
Annalise is usually put together with a perfectly coifed wig, sharply tailored sheath dresses and stunning makeup, but this night it’s different. Seated at her vanity, she takes off her wig, revealing her short Afro, then peels off her lashes. After scrubbing her face clean, this gorgeous dark-skinned woman is stripped bare for the world to see: no contours, no filter, no mask to hide behind.
As Sam enters their bedroom, Annalise is finally ready to ask the question no wife should ever have to ask her spouse.
“Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?”
In that pearl-clutching moment, I knew I was going to be sucked in until the very end. Six seasons later, the end is upon us, as “How to Get Away With Murder” airs its final episode on Thursday.
Ahead of How to Get Away with Murder’s finale Thursday night, Viola Davis and her costars express their appreciation for the viewers who took the ride with them these last six years
Viola Davis and her How to Get Away with Murder costars want fans to know how much they appreciate the support of their show over the last six seasons.
In PEOPLE’s exclusive featurette, the cast sends thank you messages to viewers ahead of Thursday’s series finale.
“Thank you for bringing yourself into it and opening yourself up for 42 minutes and inviting us into your lives because it’s been a hell of a ride,” Davis, who stars as lawyer and former professor Annalise Keating, says in the video.
Alfred Enoch, who played law student Wes Gibbins, apologizes to fans for all the plot twists the show employed since its 2014 debut.
“I’m sorry,” says Enoch, 31. “It must have been an exasperating experience watching the show with all the cliffhangers and the twists and turns. I say I’m sorry, it’s not my fault. I haven’t written it, so don’t get cross with me actually.”
Tom Verica claims he has “people coming up to me in airports cursing me out” because of his turn as Annalise’s late husband Sam.
Jack Falahee — HTGAWM’s Connor Walsh, who currently faces jail time for being charged with killing pal Asher (Matt McGorry) — admits he started joining in the show’s online fandom. “I have recently started posting on the How to Get Away with Murder subreddit, but no one knows it’s me,” the actor and musician, 31, says. “And like, the community on Reddit and the internet in general is just like so strong and supportive. So thank you, it really means a lot.”
Davis, 54, says she “thought I was ready” to part with the Shonda Rhimes series, but it “creeps up on you.”
“It is just saying goodbye to a show that has really changed my career and I think in a huge way it shifted the face of television,” Davis, whose work on the show earned her an Emmy in 2015, concludes. “It’s been bittersweet. It’s like saying goodbye to a family member.”
How to Get Away with Murder’s series finale airs Thursday (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.
Megastar Viola Davis plays real-life angel to her Minnesota friend Michelle O’Neill on HGTV’s “Celebrity IOU.”
Twin Cities theater leading lady Michelle O’Neill has been tight with megastar Viola Davis ever since they were housemates at Juilliard three decades ago. But O’Neill, who acted in “The Heiress” on Broadway and has commanded stages at the Guthrie, Penumbra and elsewhere, has kept their bond something of a secret, largely to protect the privacy of her Oscar-, Emmy- and two-time-Tony-winning friend.
“We’ve been through all the defining moments of each other’s lives,” O’Neill said. “When she won her first Tony and Oscar. When we got married. When I got cancer and had babies. I remember the whole thing about her bringing [daughter] Genesis into their life.”
The world is getting a peek into the depth of their friendship on “Celebrity IOU,” the newest HGTV show starring Jonathan and Drew Scott of “Property Brothers” fame. The premise of the spinoff is that a star picks a friend whose house could use a makeover. When Davis was approached by the Scott twins for their pilot season, her mind immediately ran to O’Neill, and the Cape Cod in Columbia Heights where the self-described “warrior chicks” had shared much wine and laughter over the years.
“I knew Michelle wanted to renovate her house,” Davis said in a recent three-way phone conversation from her home in Los Angeles. “Family is really important to her. People getting together and connecting is very important to her.”
Built in 1950, the house has charm but had not been updated in decades. Still, O’Neill and her actor-turned-physician husband, Lee Mark Nelson, had made it into a cozy home, one where teenage daughters Ella and Tess had created indelible memories.
“I’m not saying it was a dump, but it was dark and chilly before,” O’Neill said. The thought of renovating it was a far-off dream, both in financial terms, and in her imagination.
“My house was furnished compliments of consignment stores and garage sales,” O’Neill said. As to what Davis and the “Property Brothers” did to the house, it’s something of a marvel, with a new modern kitchen, an open floor plan and even a Zen room. “I don’t think I could have dreamed that big.”
Trusting and letting go
The renovation required trust, which was difficult because O’Neill, by her own admission, has a hard time letting go of the reins. The family loaded up the car last fall to temporarily move to downtown Minneapolis while Davis and the “Property Brothers” got to work.
“When I first drove away from the house, I thought, ‘Omigod, I’ve just relinquished all control,’ ” O’Neill recalled. “It was thrilling because I knew that the outcome was going to be something totally exciting and wonderful, but it was also frightening.”
She did not once drive by to see what was going on.
For Davis, the whole experience was new, and not just the part where she gets to deliver an Oprah-like blessing. (The show paid for the whole renovation.)
Davis found herself smitten with the idea of demolishing things.
“It was all a party for me,” Davis said. “It’s not my house; it’s Michelle’s house, so I was totally into it. I’m like, ‘Knock that wall down. Knock that window down.’ I looked forward to that more than anything else. And here’s the thing, too. By the end, Michelle’s house was going to be a great surprise.”
The friends built their trust by coming through crucibles together. O’Neill, a Boise, Idaho, native who was educated at the University of Utah, first bonded with Rhode Island-raised Davis at Juilliard, where both went for their four-year conservatory training.
They describe that experience as searing, because the school’s rigorous approach to classical actor training required them to be nearly empty vessels. Both were slightly older students with a well-formed sense of self, which meant in-built friction. And they were dealing with younger classmates who were just coming into themselves.
“It was classic sensitive artist stuff,” said Davis. “At Juilliard, whatever your class is, whatever your group, you’re with them for four years, 24/7.”
“24/7,” O’Neill repeated.
“And so we had sort of a shared experience of trauma and misery,” Davis said, busting out laughing.
I have always loved Viola & Julius’ love story … this article from E!Online shares their story very well!
Annalise Keating has gotten away with a lot. But it remains to be seen if she’ll escape this sixth and final season with the one thing it always seemed she was after.
“I love the idea that she’s just searching for love and intimacy and whoever will give it to her,” Viola Davis told E! News of the cutthroat attorney and criminal law professor she’s inhabited since 2014. “I love that it’s not coming from a place of damage and being screwed up because I don’t think it’s screwed up. I think it’s an interesting, liberating thought to just seek the person who is seeking you.”
How it will all turn out for Keating, well, that’s a question the folks at Shondaland won’t answer until the final six episodes of ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder play out starting tonight.
Fortunately for Davis, though, her real-life happy ending is already wrapped up.
Though the 54-year-old actress shares few commonalties with her fame-making character (“She’s messy, almost sociopathic, sexual, mysterious, highly intelligent, a big personality. She’s all of those adjectives that are not associated with me,” she told People last fall), a love life in near constant upheaval was once one of them.
Then Julius Tennon answered her prayers. Quite literally, the then-struggling actress having actually put out a spiritual call for help back in 2000. “I was the loneliest woman in the world, and someone said, ‘You should just pray for a husband,'” she revealed to Page Six in February 2013. So she thought hard and asked for “a big black man from the South who looked like a football player.” For Davis, born on her grandmother’s South Carolina farm, he also had to be “emotionally available, someone who was older, someone who maybe had a family before,” she told Essence months later. “Someone from the South. Someone who loves God more than he loves himself.”
Three-and-a-half weeks later, she stumbled across Tennon on the set of the short-lived medical drama City of Angels. A father of two 12 years her elder, he had grown up in Travis County, Texas and played football at the University of Tulsa. Frankly, she couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
Two decades on, the couple are set to celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary this June with 9-year-old daughter Genesis at their side and the Juilliard grad has leapt from sometime guest star on shows like Judging Amy and NYPD Blue to in-demand powerhouse with an Oscar, Emmy and two Tony Awards to her name. No wonder the elementary schooler is eager to follow in Mom’s footsteps.
Davis credits more than a little of her success to the life she built with Tennon. As she put it on the 2017 premiere of the OWN series Black Love, “I always tell people after my first date with Julius, my life got better. In every way. Anxiety went away, fear went away. He just made my life better.”
Good thing he had his ears open that day at craft services.
Having finished their shared scene, “I just overheard her talking to a girl and found her saying, ‘I don’t like L.A. I don’t know anybody here.’ Just kind of complaining. And I was dating a girl who was a little bit of a monster and I was kinda like, ‘Oh, wow. She seems like a nice lady, she doesn’t know anybody. I’m kind of ready to meet somebody else,'” Tennon said on Black Love. “So at the end of the day, I gave her my card.”
Davis’ first reaction, after she wiped away the bagel crumbs, “The only thing I thought was, ‘He’s good-looking. He’s really good-looking,'” she shared in a 2016 episode of The Jess Cagle Interview. Then she felt immediate relief that he wasn’t one of those actors. “He had his shirt on,” she recalled on OWN. “That was a big deal. A lot of actors have their shirts off in their little cards.”
Still, she didn’t immediately accept his offer of a guided trip to the Santa Monica Pier. Having grown up in such abject poverty in tiny Central Falls, Rhode Island that she has talked about digging through maggot-infested dumpsters for food and wrapping bed sheets around her neck at night to avoid rat bites, she was embarrassed of her bad credit and the anxiety she felt over navigating L.A.’s packed streets: “I had to work out some personal issues first.”
But after six weeks, her friends’ nudging wore her down. “Everyone said, ‘You gotta call him. You gotta call him,'” she recalled on Black Love, “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to call him.'”
He won her over with one date that took place, appropriately, at church.
Following an incredibly candid evening (“I was terrified, because he told me exactly who he was—he was absolutely honest about his past,” she said on Black Love) he was forthright as he dropped her off at home. “He just said, ‘You are a very beautiful and nice woman, and it was a pleasure spending time with you,'” she remembered. “And he shook my hand.”
Then he called 20 minutes later. “I said, ‘You got home already?'” she shared. “He said, ‘No, I’m at the Ralph’s down the street, but I just wanted to tell you again what a great time I had and what a beautiful woman you are.'”
And another 20 after that. “He called again: ‘I just want to tell you I got home, and you are a beautiful woman. I’m about to go to sleep, and I just wanted to tell you to have a good night,” Davis recalled.
His charms haven’t abated since. Marrying in 2003 first in front of 15 guests at their condo, then with a crowd of 100 in Rhode Island, the pair maintain that loving feeling through frequent acts of kindness.
“It’s about the everyday,” she told People at a 2016 event. “I think that, that’s what people forget when they fall in love with someone and it’s exciting. You have to get back to the everyday–the taking the garbage out, the cooking, the cleaning–and it’s something that I think really works with me and my husband. Every day is like a date.”
Of course some are grander than others. Telling the outlet that it’s the “simple things that are very, very special” she shared that Tennon “just gave me a book. It says, ‘How Do I Love Thee Viola? Confirmations Of Love By Julius.’ I have it in my bag, and I bring it with me every day to work, and each day is another love affirmation.”
Perhaps the biggest romantic affirmation to date, though, came when they decided to renew their vows five years after bringing daughter Genesis into their lives in late 2011. “I wanted to have another ceremony that was pretty where I got to wear the fabulous dress with the fabulous food,” she explained on Jimmy Kimmel Live! So she found a silk embroidered gown by Carmen Marc Valvo and booked a ballroom at Santa Monica’s Hotel Casa del Mar for the evening before Valentine’s Day.
“I love the rituals of weddings. What can I say?” she explained on the Today show. “It’s a time in my life when I feel the most alive and that’s the thing that I don’t always feel that way. I love what I do but sometimes I’m on a sound stage for 17 hours a day and I’m tired and I’m hot but with Julius, it just reminds me of what’s beautiful about my life and I think that’s worth it.”
This time around she was able to include the entirety of her How to Get Away With Murder cast and new pal Oprah Winfrey (who came through with an invite to her palatial Montecito spread), trappings of the life they’ve spent the last two decades building together.
“Viola, you’ve just been amazing. Incredible,” he said in a toast shared to social media. “She teaches me every day how to man up, how to agree to disagree but let’s get it done, don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Continued Tennon, “Some doors have been slammed. Some anger has been exuded. But it’s reconciled. Always reconciled.”
Their next chapter will see her take on Michelle Obama for Showtime’s forthcoming anthology, First Ladies, produced with Lionsgate through their shared company JuVee Productions. “I’m excited,” she told People last year. “I may fail big. But you know what? I’ll live through it. But I do want to honor her in every way I can.”
But first, a much-needed respite. “Does that sound nice?” she asked of the planned vacation, marking the end of her successful HTGAWM run. “Nothing. Peace.”
Thank god she found it. Speaking to research professor and author Brené Brown in 2018, she opened up about a particular breakthrough. “One day my therapist asked me a pivotal question: ‘What if nothing changes—your looks, your weight, your success—would you be okay?’ For the first time, I thought, ‘You know what? Yes, I would. I really would,” she shared.
Of course it helped that she had a partner to remind her just how fantastic she was. “I also got married to an amazing man who really saw me,” she continued. “He was my gift for working so hard on myself.”
The Root has Viola share her favorite memory from How to Get Away With Murder.
Imagine being able to say that you got to sit betwixt the knees of the leading matriarch of black Hollywood while she does your hair, ever so tenderly. Well, Viola Davis has those bragging rights.
A highly respected actor in her own right, Davis reminisced on her favorite moment throughout the six seasons of the ABC legal thriller, How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM).
Returning tonight for its final stretch (six more episodes to go, y’all!), Davis sat down with The Root to break down the iconic scene from Season 1, Episode 13 appropriately titled, “Mama’s Here Now.”
“Let me tell you somethin’,” Davis leaned in with a firm reverence. “She scratched my scalp—I said, ‘OK, the next step is, I’m going to bleed, Ms. Tyson!’ because that woman is strong! But, that [moment] was absolutely perfect.”
We can certainly imagine it was! Rest assured, Davis’ scalp was blessed during that production shoot. Not only was it a pivotal moment for Annalise Keating’s character arc, but it served as a reflection of the actress’ own career goals.
“It’s just something that I don’t [typically] see that’s so culturally specific, but so much about bonding and our everyday,” Davis continued. “And to do it with Ms. Tyson, who is the one who gave me that first burst of wanting to dream bigger than my circumstances… she was my first image of success and what I wanted to be.”
Simply put, Davis summarized the experience with three powerful words: “It was everything.”
How To Get Away With Murder returns tonight at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
Viola spoke with ABC News Radio about what it has meant to her playing Annalise Keating.
Ahead of final season return of ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder, Viola Davis is reflecting on her groundbreaking character, Annalise Keating, and the impact that she’s had on Davis’ career.
When asked to share her thoughts about the show’s end– and whether she was upset to see it go, or happy to start the next chapter in her career– Davis tells ABC Audio that “it’s a bit of both.”
“You know, Annalise Keating has served me well,” Davis says. “She has introduced me to the global market.”
Davis also explains that Annalise — a confident and complex, high-profile criminal defense attorney and law professor — helped to show a different type of lead character, one not often portrayed by black women.
“And like I said, she’s redefined the leading lady,” the Oscar winner continues. “And she’s redefined what it means to be a black woman, especially on TV.”
Her husband, Julius Tennon, agrees, telling his wife lovingly, “And a woman of a certain you, a beautiful you.”
The second half of the final season of How to Get Away with Murder airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
“Stress is my number-one achilles heel,” Viola Davis, wearing a crisp white pantsuit and red lipstick, told me at a L’Oréal Paris event last month, two weeks before Angelenos were asked to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. “I should be doing meditation, but I’m not; there’s too much going on up here.”
While there was no shortage of topics to discuss with Davis during our interview —like being the face of L’Oréal Paris’ Age Perfect line or her upcoming role playing Michelle Obama — with growing unease about a global pandemic, it was impossible to ignore the elephant in the room: the stress and anxiety we were all feeling.
But, if there were ever a celebrity to take advice from on the subject, it’s Davis. The award-winning actress, who is also a professional motivational speaker, has spent years learning how to cope with internal pressure — and her words are proverbial milk and honey in these unprecedented times.
Keep scrolling for highlights from our sit-down, including how she’s preparing to play FLOTUS in the upcoming First Ladies Showtime series, what being the face of a beauty brand truly means to her, and the epiphany that changed how she manages stress.
People are more stressed out than ever and it’s showing up on our faces. How do you combat stress?
“I am one of those people whose brain never shuts off, so I have to do something physical to knock the stress out of me. Sleep is important, and so is exercise, but how I combat stress most is I take a lot of baths. I put epsom salt and lavender in the tub and just soak. I don’t want my stress to show on my skin, that’s my big thing, so I always use serums before moisturizer. I love the L’Oréal Revitalist moisturizer.”
You are the face of L’Oréal Paris at 54. Do you think that women above 50 are fairly represented in the beauty world?
“No, and I think that’s why Age Perfect is resonating. I grew up with beauty brands that were [represented] by skinny white women. I certainly loved all those women, like Twiggy, but I couldn’t have been any further from them. L’Oréal is giving a message that is so deep and meaningful of a woman’s worth. Aging gets a bad rap in general, perhaps because people think you’re closer to death, don’t look as good, or are not as viable, when in fact, everything gets better. There is honest pressure, then there is the pressure that’s a lie — and most pressure is a lie.”
What kind of pressures do you consider lies?
“The ultimate image of perfectionism is money, youth, and beauty, and when you get to a certain age, you begin to understand that it’s a lie. So what happens next is this extraordinary thing where all the other values, like wisdom and authenticity, take over and you cannot help but feel less anxiety — it just happens! One day you just wake up and say, ‘I feel great!’ You cannot put a price tag on wisdom, on getting to the point in your life where you feel worth it, on understanding the power of no.”
What advice would you give to young people who are trying to feel less stressed?
“I was always in internal strife in my 20s — always. It was every single day and I didn’t know how to get out of it. People don’t value the internal, but that’s where all the value lies.”
How did you beat those feelings of daily turmoil?
“Becoming a mother, then my career taking off and feeling like, ‘I did it! I’m done! I am successful!’ — but then feeling tired, disillusioned, and not happy. Then one day, I was sitting next to a life strategist at a party and he said, ‘Viola, that’s not the final step; the final step is living a life of significance.’ He said that when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that’s when you’ll truly be dead. So that made me think, What are you leaving behind? What’s bigger than putting on the perfect shade of lipstick? What’s bigger than your brand and your net worth? I realized that I became worthy on August 11, 1965 — the day I was born. Realizing this sort of blows a hole in everything that the world tells you value is.”
You just signed on to executive produce and star in First Ladies as Michelle Obama. How are you feeling?
“I talk about worth and then I’m like, ‘Oh shit!” I feel terrified!'”
What are you doing to get into the role?
“I started looking at interviews and started reading her book, and then, of course, I am talking to my makeup artist and hairstylist. I am one of those people who will work work work then I get scared and fall apart… and eat. And then I’ll work work work and then fall apart again.”
Have you talked to Michelle about the role? Do you feel like you need to get her blessing?
“I have met Michelle Obama twice and we’re certainly representing her beautifully. There is something about her… she’s perfect. I haven’t had the real interview, which is the getting in there, getting to know her, sitting down and really hearing her feedback. I have to do it before I start, but I am terrified. I am, but you know what? I am not afraid to fail.”
Hello everyone! I wanted to take a moment to address what is happening in our world. Due to the Covid-19 situation I have had some major changes happening in my life to provide safety for my family and the other individuals around me. I have moved to a working from home environment, both of my daughters are home with me full-time, and my schooling has moved to online. Having said that I want to encourage each of you to do the same … take time to consider the state of our world and how YOU can help slow down the spread of this awful illness.
Tomorrow night How to Get Away With Murder is back for the rest of it’s final season. Until then watch this goodbye feature … I know I am going to miss this series.
People.com shared this article where Viola speaks about her involvement with L’Oréal Paris and the new line of Age Perfect Makeup that they have launched. It is evident how proud Viola is of her involvement with L’Oréal Paris.
The face of L’Oréal Paris’ new Age Perfect makeup collection talks learning to love every part of herself from the inside and out
As a woman in her 50s, Viola Davis‘ approach to beauty has completely changed.
“Now, I don’t want to look like anyone other than me,” the How to Get Away with Murder star, 54, tells PEOPLE at the L.A. launch of L’Oréal Paris’ new Age Perfect Makeup collection. “That was a big thing in my twenties especially.”
When she was younger, Davis says she dreamed of looking like one super-famous star before becoming truly confident with her own unique beauty. “I wanted to look like Oprah, especially when she went to the Oscars for The Color Purple. I thought she was the most beautiful,” the actress reveals.
“I never told her that. Literally, Oprah went to one of my weddings and I never had the guts to say, ‘Oprah, I was always trying to look like you!’” Davis adds.
But now Davis highlights the features that make her who she is using makeup. “I embracing my nose and my lips. It’s like all of a sudden I was like, ‘Viola, that’s what your lips always looked like? Why’d you have a problem with that?’ I love wearing red lipstick, which took me a long time, because I think my lips are fabulous,” she says.
As for her complexion, it’s always been a challenge for Davis to find the right foundation and concealer for her skin tone. “[You don’t want one] that is too ashy or too dark,” she explains. But then as she got older, it became even more difficult to land on a formula that also “feels like a part of your skin” so you “don’t feel like it’s wearing you.”
Luckily, Davis has found a winner in the new L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Foundation Serum with SPF 50, which was designed to not settle in fine lines and leave a cakey finish — a common concern for women over 50 (the entire Age Perfect cosmetics range targets mature customers’ specific needs).
“I feel so seen and valued with this collection for older women,” the L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador says. “You’re still very much beautiful in that way.”
Still, Davis isn’t ashamed to admit that it isn’t easy to see herself physically getting older. “I’m no going to lie, it is harder to see the jowls and the eyes,” she says. “But the other thing happens where you begin to value life and time, especially time, because you feel like you’re running out of it.”
Because of that, Davis has grown to appreciate the signs of aging she has started to see on her body. “You put the fine lines in their place and they become sort of like survivor scars. I recently saw a photo of myself where I noticed some jowls. But it’s interesting how I didn’t stop there. I said, ‘Oh, but my skin looks really nice in that picture,’” she says.
Davis continues: “When I was younger, I worried about how pretty someone else thought I was. Now, I see the whole picture.”
Check out the rest of the beautiful photos from this shoot!
Viola & Helen Mirren joined L’Oréal Paris in celebrating the launch of their new Age Perfect Cosmetics in Beverly Hills … both ladies are perfect examples of classic beauty!