×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Viola Davis Becomes First Black Woman to Win Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy history was made when “How to Get Away with Murder” star Viola Davis won outstanding actress in a drama series, becoming the first black actress to claim the prize. Davis overcame fierce competition, including Taraji P. Henson — whose own nomination made this the first year two black actresses were nominated in the category.

“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” an emotional Davis told the audience.

The star of ABC’s drama series also quoted Harriet Tubman and thanked her fellow African American actresses, including Henson, Kerry Washington and Halle Berry.

“Thank you for taking us over that line,” she said.

“Fame” star Debbie Allen was the first black woman ever nominated for drama series lead actress back in 1982. She was nominated four consecutive times but never won.

Alfre Woodard (“St. Elsewhere”) and Cicely Tyson (“Sweet Justice”) were nominated in 1986 and 1995, respectively, while Regina Taylor earned back-to-back noms for “I’ll Fly Away” in 1992 and 1993 and Kerry Washington did the same for “Scandal” in 2013 and 2014.

Backstage, Davis told reporters that she is very happy with her career and the progression of opportunities for actors of color, but she looks forward to the day when the conversation is over. “Not just stop saying it, but also stop writing it,” she said, praising Shonda Rhimes for writing roles for all humans, adding that her “How To Get Away with Murder” character Annalise Keating was not written for a black woman. “I made her black,” she said.

As for her competitor Taraji P. Henson, who was also nominated for best actress in a drama, Davis raved about the “Empire” star.

“We hugged each other three times,” Davis said of Henson. “By the way, [what] people need to know about Taraji P. Henson — and it’s very, very, very rare to find this in the business — she is the most supportive actress you can possibly imagine.”

The rest of this year’s drama lead actress field included “Orphan Black” fan favorite Tatiana Maslany, “House of Cards” First Lady Robin Wright, three-time Emmy winner Claire Danes of “Homeland” and “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss, who lost out on her sixth and final bid for the AMC series.

More TV

  • 60 Minutes" reporter Lara Logan takes

    Lara Logan Says She's Been 'Targeted' for Her Claims of Liberal Media Bias

    Former CBS News foreign correspondent Lara Logan appeared on “Hannity” Wednesday evening to expand on her recent remarks characterizing the media as “mostly liberal.” “It’s obvious, right, because you get targeted,” she said, explaining her earlier comments that she was committing “professional suicide” by criticizing the media. “It’s the same group of people, they’re already [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    'Empire' Producers Consider Suspending Jussie Smollett (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fox is considering removing Jussie Smollett from production on “Empire.” Sources close to the production told Variety that producers are weighing whether to suspend the actor after he was charged Wednesday in Chicago with filing a false police report. A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the series, declined to comment. Smollett’s status on [...]

  • Game of Thrones Final Season: Best

    The Best 'Game of Thrones' Merch to Get You Ready for the New Season

    We’re just weeks away from the premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones,” and whether you’re a die-hard fan, on the hunt for a novelty gift, or a serious collector hoping to nab some memorabilia before the series signs off for good, we’ve found 10 pieces of merch that pay tribute to one [...]

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    Ryan Kadro Will Join Quibi to Oversee News Programming (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Kadro left CBS News several weeks ago, but he isn’t leaving the news business. Kadro, the former executive producer of “CBS This Morning” is set to join Quibi, the company led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman that is devoted to short-form  content. Kadro is expected to oversee news programming for the subscription-based service, [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Charged With Filing False Police Report

    “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report, the Chicago police said Wednesday. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter. Smollett is due to appear in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. [...]

  • Coast Guard Lieutenant Hit List

    Coast Guard Lieutenant Targeted CNN, MSNBC Anchors and Democrats for Attacks

    Anchors at CNN and MSNBC and prominent Democrats were targeted for attack by a Coast Guard lieutenant arrested Friday on a firearms charge, according to federal prosecutors in Maryland. In court documents revealed Tuesday, prosecutors describe the firearms and controlled substance charges Christopher Paul Hasson is facing as “the proverbial tip of the iceberg.” CNN’s [...]

  • TV News Roundup: HBO Releases 'The

    TV News Roundup: HBO Drops Trailer for 'The Case Against Adnan Syed' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO released the first official trailer for its upcoming docu-series “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” and Freeform announced three new cast members for its upcoming comedy series “Besties,” starring Jordin Sparks. DATES Netflix’s upcoming docu-series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” is set to premiere March 8 on the streaming platform. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content