First-Time Oscar Winner Viola Davis Accepts Best Supporting Actress Trophy
The 'Fences' star delivered a rousing and emotional speech while taking home her first Academy Award Sunday night.
Viola Davis took home her first Oscar on Sunday night.
The Fences star, who has been nominated for an Academy Award three times in the past nine years, had won every major award leading up to Sunday's big night.
"There's one place where all the greatest people are gathered, and that's the graveyard," she began while accepting the award for best supporting actress. "Exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost."
She continued, during her emotional and tearful acceptance speech, "I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life."
She thanked all the "cheerleaders for a movie that is about people and words and life and forgiveness and grace" and her director and co-star Denzel Washington, saying, "O Captain! My Captain."
Adding, "Here's to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people."
She also spoke directly to her husband in the audience: "To my husband and daughter: my heart, you and Genesis. You teach me every day how to live, how to love. I'm so glad that you are the foundation of my life."
My family. Thank you everyone for your love and support! pic.twitter.com/5thsM7y3HT— Viola Davis (@violadavis) February 27, 2017
Davis delivered a powerful performance in the big-screen adaption of Wilson's 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which examines the roots of unhappiness in a seemingly happy black family in Pittsburgh during the 1950s. The Fences playwright died in 2005.
Both Davis and co-star Washington earned Tony Awards for the 2010 revival of the play on Broadway. In January, Davis also picked up the best supporting actress Golden Globe award.
Fences earned four nominations during Sunday's Oscars, including best actor for Washington and best picture.
After two consecutive years of the Oscar ceremonies being overshadowed by their lack of diverse acting nominees, spurring the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, Davis and Washington are two of seven people of color to earn nominations this year, including Moonlight's Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris; Hidden Figures' Octavia Spencer; Loving's Ruth Negga; and Lion's Dev Patel.
Ali picked up the award for best supporting actor earlier in the night.
Fences is also one of three best picture-nominated films centered on black protagonists.
Though the play remains relevant 30 years later, Davis told The Hollywood Reporter she doesn't see the story as a political one.
"I don't see it as representing something any bigger than a family and a man being born into a set of circumstances and maybe not taking ownership of how he's poisoning his family, which most of us don't," she said. "Some of us go to our grave never taking ownership. We just cause destruction around us. Arthur Miller said it, and August Wilson said it: When you notice all of the sins of your father, hopefully you can approach it with forgiveness and illumination. That's just life."
Davis beat out Moonlight's Harris, Lion's Nicole Kidman, Hidden Figures' Spencer and Manchester by the Sea's Michelle Williams.
Previously, she was nominated for an Oscar for her roles in 2008's Doubt and 2011's The Help.
Davis also has an Emmy win for her starring TV role on ABC's How to Get Away With Murder.
Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 89th annual Academy Awards, which were held at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre and aired live Sunday on ABC.