Viola Davis ’88 nominated for Oscar for her role in ‘The Help’

Viola Davis
RIC grad and Central Falls native Viola Davis ‘88 has garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in “The Help,” which has also been nominated for Best Picture.

This is Davis’ second time up for an Oscar, following her supporting actress nomination for 2008’s “Doubt.”

On Jan. 29, Davis received the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her work in “The Help.”

In December, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, an award won in January by Meryl Streep, star of “The Iron Lady.”

Most recently Davis won awards for her work in “The Help” at the Critics Choice Awards for Best Actress and Best Ensemble.

In “The Help,” Davis plays Aibileen Clark, a maid and nanny. She told What’s News in a 2011 story that it was the most "fully realized" film role she’s had so far.

“By ‘fully realized,’ I mean that Aibileen’s emotional life is fully explored,” Davis said. “The joy of being an actor is that the bigger the puzzle, the greater the satisfaction there is in putting it together. You want your character to be as multifaceted as possible. Aibileen is quiet and reserved, with a rich subconscious life. Living in poverty, she followed a life path that had already been laid out for her. She says, ‘I knew I was going to be a maid because my mother was a maid and my grandmother was a house slave.’”

Davis studied theatre at RIC, and in 2002, received an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the college.

In addition to being an alum at RIC, Davis was also enrolled in Upward Bound at the college. The federally funded program gives low-income students the skills needed to complete high school and to enter and graduate from college. She has credited Upward Bound for contributing to her success, and supports the organization as a speaker and cofounder of an endowment fund.

Davis won Tony Awards for “King Hedley II” (2001) and “Fences” (2010), and received a Drama Desk Award for “King Hedley II,” an Obie for “Everybody’s Ruby” (1999), and a Drama Desk and Obie for “Intimate Apparel” (2004).

Davis and Denzel Washington in "Fences."
In 2008, playing opposite Meryl Streep in ”Doubt,” she earned nominations for the Academy Award, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild.

In her first major theatre role, in the 1994-95 production of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” she was nominated for the Tony Award and won the Outer Critics Circle Award.

The 84th Academy Awards will be handed out on Feb. 26.