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Following Oscar win, Viola Davis is first black winner of acting 'triple crown'

Viola Davis, who won best supporting actress Sunday night for 'Fences,' won a Tony for a theater production of the same role, in addition to an Emmy for her work in the ABC TV series 'How to Get Away with Murder.' How common is winning the award trifecta?

Viola Davis accepts on Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in 'Fences' on Sunday, Feb. 26.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters | Caption

Following her win of the 2017 best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the movie “Fences,” actress Viola Davis is now the first African-American actor to have received an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award for acting roles.

Ms. Davis had received the Tony Award for best actress in a play for the same role in the 2010 revival of the August Wilson play “Fences,” while she received an Emmy Award for best actress in a drama series in 2015 for her work in the ABC TV series “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Whoopi Goldberg has also famously received an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award, but Ms. Goldberg won her Tony as producer for the Broadway show “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” 

Davis joins 22 other actors who have received the three awards, including actress Jessica Lange, who received a Tony Award for best actress in a play for “Long Day’s Journey into Night” in 2016, and Frances McDormand, who received an Emmy Award for best actress in a miniseries or a movie in 2015 for “Olive Kitteridge.” 

The achievement is often called the “triple crown” of acting. 

Davis's role in "Fences" was also recognized with a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for best supporting actress earlier in January, among other prizes. 

She was previously nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her work in the 2011 movie “The Help.” At the time Monitor film critic Peter Rainer praised how Davis inhabited the role of maid Aibileen in the 1960s-set film.

“The performances by Stone – but especially by Davis and Spencer – are … deeply felt,” he wrote. “A lifetime of pain is in Aibileen’s weary rectitude and hard-set eyes.... The presence of these two women, which is ennobling without falsifying that nobility with sentimentality, periodically lifts ‘The Help’ into a higher realm than, given its civics-lesson trappings, it probably deserves.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times writer Mary McNamara praised Davis's inscrutability in a review of the TV show "How to Get Away with Murder." "In 'The Paper Chase,' the legendary John Houseman gave life to a law professor who is both character and cataclysmic event," she wrote. "In 'How to Get Away With Murder,' the role is equally formidable, as is the woman who inhabits it. From the moment she comes on-screen, Viola Davis makes Professor Annalise Keating one of those gorgeously enigmatic characters who could either be the ultimate truth teller or great deceiver."