Viola Davis wins best supporting actress Oscar for role as wronged wife 'Fences'

Davis was previously nominated for two Oscars for her work in the movies 'The Help' and 'Doubt.' She stars in the best picture nominee 'Fences' with actor Denzel Washington.

David Lee/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Fences' stars Viola Davis (r.) and Denzel Washington (l.).

Viola Davis has won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in the film adaptation of the classic August Wilson play “Fences.” 

Ms. Davis portrayed Rose Maxson, wife of Troy (Denzel Washington) and mother to Cory (Jovan Adepo). The story takes place in 1950's Pittsburgh. 

The film, which is also nominated for Oscars including best picture, best actor for Mr. Washington, and best adapted screenplay, and was directed by Washington, stars many of the actors who portrayed the same roles in the 2010 Broadway revival, including Washington and Davis. 

Davis has previously been nominated for two Oscars, one for the best actress prize for starring in 2011’s “The Help” and one for best supporting actress for her work in the 2008 movie “Doubt.” She currently stars on the ABC Shonda Rhimes drama “How to Get Away with Murder.” 

Davis told NPR that she wanted to portray Rose’s journey over the course of the story as Rose’s situation grows darker.

“I just really wanted to create a portrait of a woman….,” she said. “You see age has affected her, but you still see the smile; you see a little bit of the lipstick; you see a woman who is not downtrodden. It was very important for me to create an entire and specific portrait of a woman, so by the time everything is taken away, it really is taken away. You really feel the trauma ... and I could have only gotten to that level if I would have had something to lose.” 

(Spoilers follow for the film “Fences”…)

As the plot of “Fences” unfolds, Davis’s character, Rose, discovers her husband has been unfaithful. “There are a lot of women like that who stay,” Davis said of Rose's decisions in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter

“We all are doing the best we can,” she added. “I would like to say that I'm a walking poster board for feminism and women's liberation, but there are things that I do in my life that deeply, deeply fall short of being a statement for being a strong woman. I am flawed as much as anyone else. Once again: choices. This is not a woman who has $5,000 in the bank.” 

But her portrayal of those choices – and their costs – grabbed critics' attention this winter.

"The acting is all superb," wrote Variety's Owen Gleiberman. "At the moment Troy’s selfishness is fully revealed, Viola Davis delivers a monologue of tearful, scalding, nose-running agony that shows you one woman’s entire reality breaking down. For a few shattering moments, when she talks about her family of half-brothers and half-sisters, it drags the fallout from America’s racist past right into the glaring light of the present."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.