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21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room

Lester Cohen


Viola Davis is the kind of actress who brings a raw and personal energy to all of her work on the stage and the big and small screens, from her start as a nurse in the film The Substance of Fire to her Drama Desk award-winning performance as Tonya in King Hedley II. Her decades of hard work paid off with a role in the upcoming Warner Bros./DC superhero flick Suicide Squadwhere she’ll be playing sharp-minded antihero Amanda Waller.

For those who aren’t familiar, Amanda Waller is a character in DC Comics whose background in political science and military strategy, plus her take-no-prisoners attitude, make her a fierce opponent to any and all superheroes in her path, especially considering that she has no powers of her own.

Davis has a tendency to play characters who share similar personality traits with Waller, so considering that she’s been the front runner to play the character for quite some time now, it’s doubly appropriate that Davis’ career choices have been preparing her for and leading up to this. Tonight’s season finale of How To Get Away With Murder is all the reason we need to reflect on Davis’ roles, past and present, that gave her what she needed to prepare for Suicide Squad.

Mrs. Miller in Doubt 

Davis had a paltry 10 minutes of screen time in this 2008 adaptation of the play of the same name, but she made them her own as the mother of a boy at a Catholic school who has a relationship with one of the school’s pastors (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) that may be too close for comfort. Davis’ brief but potent portrayal of conflicted denial even got her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 2009 Academy Awards.

Major Anderson in Ender’s Game

As psychologist Major Gwen Anderson, Davis unearthed the strength and will to attempt to tell off Harrison Ford‘s Colonel Hyram Gruff about the use of children as soldiers in this otherwise average space-faring action flick. More power to her.

Nancy Birch in Prisoners 

Both she and on-screen husband Terrence Howard face a difficult challenge in this 2013 potboiler: watching their friend Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) torture a man who may or may not have kidnapped their respective two daughters. Davis shows a steely resolve that leads to some dark and twisted conclusions.

Carol Barrett in Blackhat 

In this under seen Michael Mann flick from earlier this year, Davis plays the role of FBI agent Carol Barrett, who is forced to enlist the help of a master computer hacker when an even more dangerous hacker threatens national security. Davis’ hard-nosed performance was a saving grace for this movie and a confirmation that the steely and determined affect she plays often is a strong asset.

Annalise Keating in How To Get Away With Murder 

Davis signed on to play the role of Annalise Keating, and in that moment, television would never be the same again. Her strong characterization as a high-profile defense attorney/college professor who goes hard in the courtroom, coupled with her resourcefulness and affecting life outside of the court and class rooms, has both labeled Keating as one of the best characters on television and cemented Davis as a bona fide talent to watch.

Dylan “CineMasai” Green is a movie geek, hip-hop aficionado, and pita chip enthusiast. Find him on Twitter.


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5 Roles That Prepared Viola Davis For ‘Suicide Squad’  was originally published on