Viola Davis talks about overcoming and career in an autobiographical book

posted on 23/08/2022 00:01 / updated on 23/08/2022 10:52

(credit: Marcelo Ferreira/CB/DA Press)

It was from 25 dollars paid to a midwife that Viola Davis came into the world. Her father, a horse handler, who carried a load of hatred linked to alcoholism, systematically hurt Viola’s mother, who exercised restraint in “spurts of blood”. “Imagine your father beating your mother with a piece of wood, hitting her hard on the back”, she describes in a certain part of her autobiography. In life, the award-winning actress of How to get away with murder she continues to struggle to remove secrets and barriers that include a brother capable of violating her sisters, situations that prevented her from adhering to social protocols and the stain of small thefts, at a time of fierce struggle in which “morality was going to hell”. As she recounts in her autobiography In Search of Me, acting came as a “source of healing”. By internalizing shame so much, Viola became the warrior she is, according to what she describes.

The removal of more than 30 fibroids, living with alopecia areata, the fire dribbling, the hatred of blackness distilled by Cape Verdeans and even by a Brazilian woman Viola does not forget add to the mishaps of the narrative. “I remember spending the whole day in the living room in the sub-zero climate, all huddled together, pissing, freezing, watching my mother”, points out the actress, since the age of eight, on the defensive. “The invisibility of the combo formed by blackness and poverty is something brutal”, reiterates the author, in a retrospective of her life.

On the outskirts of CBGB, a New York biker bar, and stage for careers like Patti Smith and Blondie, with part of her experiences in Central Falls already buried, Viola climbed the trail of the low-income generation that emerged in higher education. Selections came: among 2200 people, Viola was among 30 finalists, on a springboard that would lead her to the renowned Julliard, endowed with a structure dedicated to the power of transformation. However, the molds yielded adjustments that advocated white actors. Viola’s color tended toward purple (from Alice Walker’s recurrently staged text). A future exponent of playwright August Wilson’s adaptations for the big screen (in films such as The supreme voice of the blues and A boundary between us), Viola, throughout the text, asserts the turning point enunciated by the author of the play seven guitars (which she faced onstage): “Man has plans, but God? He does too.”

Raised among many children neglected by the excess of their parents’ journey on South Carolina plantations, Viola, in the book, exorcises the precise “immortal and imperishable” memories. Along with her personal journey, which, as she says, resembles a war movie, come the achievements and examples of the interpreter of renowned directors such as Todd Haynes and Steven Soderbergh. If she reports “trauma, piss, shit and mortar mixed with memories”, the powerful lady of How to get away with murder account of the splendor of seeing, on the TV screen, the pioneering muse of black cinema Cicely Tyson. In a way, the spark of phrases that, in the future, Viola would learn on a trip to Africa was ignited: kara be and Kara jon — conceptually, expressions of empathy: “I’m here” and “I see you”.

The identity and tracking present in the title of the book — in search of me —, lead Viola to emphasize the old version of herself, not brave, insecure and in need of therapy, along the lines of her friend Will Smith, who had confided in her: “I’ll always be the 15-year-old boy who got dumped by his girlfriend” . Viola’s traumas seem stronger. Until sharing with God a list of expected qualities for the suitor (love that she would consolidate with actor Julius Tennon), Viola saw herself as someone alone, “but not lonely”. As fate would have it, Viola found the “big black man” who “was a former athlete, preferably a football player”. Tennon and Viola would later adopt a child, on a path that softened the actress’s experience with an abortion. As she recounts: “…I had ended a life, and I definitely, without a doubt, knew it was a life… that I had traded for mine”.


Reported by Viola, the common infertility of women who were part of a group of comedians in Africa is impressive in the book. From the invigorating journey — in which she reconciles with a past of prejudice and abuse — the author points to Africa as “God’s playground”. In The Gambia, explosions of colors such as orange, blue and purple blend with cultures, languages ​​and cultures, including Wolof, Diola, Mandingo and Sosso. The richness is capped off in a song that Viola never forgets: “I didn’t come here for food. My belly is full. I didn’t come here for food. I came for so much more.”

Not settling for little is a clear characteristic of the renowned actress who celebrated the turning point in her career with the “sexualized, sociopathic and intelligent” character of How to get away with murder, which gave her the Emmy for best actress in 2015. The recognition itself goes through the degree of demand of the actress who was once a guest of honor, as a wedding gift, to George Clooney’s Italian mansion. Viola says of a time when “there were no suggestions from influencers with little knowledge of what we do as artists”. She also didn’t speak loudly about the “album seller appeal” as grafting onto the cast of audiovisual products. In the elaboration of “every little piece of dream” that sent Viola to Broadway, after years of living in apartment 128, infested by rats, towards the end of the book, the narrator mentions Anne Lamont, a support figure for celebrities, and who seems like a summary of what Viola establishes, in front of the reader: “You can leave something for people or you can leave something in people”.

Viola stands out as an astute backstage observer of productions in which she took part as a cross storiesfilmed in Greenwood (Mississippi), birthplace for the White Citizens Councils, pillars for the perpetuation of the Jim Crow laws that tried to stop the stagnation of racial segregation, in the mid-1950s. DoubtMeryl Streep, humble of all and “100% not intimidating”, Viola ends the narrative of in search of mesatiated and serene: “All I have is me”.

in search of me

By Viola Davis. Autobiography edited by Best Seller, 266 pages. Average price: BRL 39.90.

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