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Despite Her Success, Viola Davis Says She Still Has to Remind Herself She's Not Poor Anymore

Noella Williams
·2-min read
Viola Davis
Viola Davis

Jerod Harris/FilmMagic, Getty Images

In an interview with Jon Wertheim for CBS News' 60 Minutes, Viola Davis opened up about her success, vulnerability on camera, and her recent role in the film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Davis, who has played major roles in other films like The Help and Fences, is a Triple Crown award-winning actress who has won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony in an acting category. In 2017, she made history as the first Black person to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting.

The How to Get Away With Murder star is not shy, however, about her experience living in poverty in Rhode Island.

"There was one apartment that we lived in that was just infested with rats," Davis said during the interview, which originally aired in December but re-ran over the weekend in the run-up to the Academy Awards. "They were everywhere. They were in the cabinets, they were in the walls, they were under our beds. And just never having any food."

Wertheim responded by asking why Davis is very open about growing up in poverty.

"I do that because I think that there's a lot of shame involved with poverty," Davis responded. "That you wouldn't be poor if you did the right thing. When you're poor what happens is it seeps through your mind. It's not just a financial state. It's an invisibility state. It's a worthlessness state."

Davis continued, "...I always have to tell myself that I'm not poor anymore, that I'm not that girl anymore. But at the same time, I have to honor that young girl."

In a separate portion of the interview, Davis mentioned the "fight" that Black actors in Hollywood have every day after they have made it.

"And what we're fighting as African Americans, we're fighting the movie-making business that has already decided who you are and how you're marketable," Davis said. "I could deal with you if you're just a part of the story, but you're just a secondary part of the story, you're not the main focus."

Davis has never limited herself to a particular type of character in her acting roles, especially in her upcoming film The Woman King. The Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed period action drama will tell the story of an all-female militant army in West Africa. The film is set to begin production this year.