Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event (2022) Movie Script

[emotional piano music playing]
[man] Cameras are rolling
anytime that you're ready.
[Oprah] How youfeeling?
[Viola] I'm nervous.
[Oprah] Don't be nervous.
I just saw your little picture
and I wanted to start boohooing.
[Viola chuckling]
So here we are on my porch in Maui.
[sighing] Maui. Thank you for being here
in our happy place.
-Oh, thank you for having me.
-Thank you for joining me.
I know we've known each other
for a number of years.
We've had other interviews,
but I have to tell you
when I read this book
something happened inside me.
I I thought, "Wow!"
What a wonder.
What, um what what an incredible life
that you have manifested for yourself,
that you have used the strength,
that you haveused the power
that I don't even know where you got it.
When I finished the,
not even the first chapter,
when I finished the first paragraph,
'cause you know how you open a book
Yeah. [laughing]
with the first words.
I was calling everybody I know to say
we must choose this as a book club
to have as many people
in the world read it as possible.
[inspirational music playing]
What was it about this time
that you were ready to expose
this level of truth about yourself?
That is my most frightening question.
Could I say that, Oprah?
[Oprah laughing]
I believed that I was having
a bad existential crisis.
That's what I believe.
Um, I wrote the really wrote the book
during the pandemic.
But existential crisis,
meaning that crisis of meaning.
-What's my meaning?
How do I connect to the world
feeling very disconnected, very isolated.
And was it the pandemic
that had made you feel that way?
-I think the pandemic, um, exacerbated it.
-[Oprah] Exacerbated it. Yeah.
I think before that time,
what's happened with me
over the last probably 12, 13 years
is the ascension to a level of fame.
-I think it's safe to say.
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
[Viola] And the feeling that once I hit it
and once I got on top,
that somehow my life was going to open up.
All of a sudden,
it would be some sort of feeling
where, uh that I have arrived,
that I know the meaning of my life,
and the heavens were gonna open up,
and God was gonna sing,
and that's it.
[Oprah] Shrewd.
-Where's my Coke?
-"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" boys.
Where's my Coke?
I need a Coke. Hot as it is. Shoot.
[Oprah] Vulnerable.
-Throw the priest out then.
-[woman] I am trying to do just that.
Then what do you want from me?
[Oprah] Fierce.
I gave 18 years of my life
to stand in the same spot as you!
[Oprah] These are just
a few of the portraits
in Viola Davis' collection
of astonishing portrayals.
They don't care nothin' about me.
[dramatic music playing]
All they want
is my voice.
[Oprah] One win and four nominations
makes Viola the most celebrated
black actress in Oscar history.
I became an artist, and thank God I did,
because we are the only profession
that celebrates what it means
to live a life.
[Oprah] Her Emmy-winning turn
as Annalise Keating
in Shonda Rhimes'
How to Get Away with Murder
That's what it costs to change the world.
[Oprah] is a role Viola describes as
powerful, liberating, and life-changing.
So who wants in?
[Oprah] Viola's first love, the theater,
has awarded her two Tonys,
both for plays
by the legendary playwright August Wilson.
I was born into a certain circumstance
where I couldn't see it with my eyes,
I couldn't touch it with my hands,
and so I had to believe it in my heart.
And I would live the rest of my life
in joy and peace
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
and, um, sort of like, uh, Cinderella
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
[chuckling] when Prince Charming
comes in, and that didn't happen.
What happened was excitement at first
and then the feeling of exhaustion,
the feeling of really,
um um, impostors in my life
in terms of friendships,
people overstepping their boundaries,
people feeling like I was a commodity.
Um, pressure.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
The pressure of unseen responsibility.
All I know is it wasn't it.
Then the question is,
"So, Viola, what is it?"
[Oprah] Mm.
[Viola] What is it?
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
What's home to you?
And how do you get at it?
And I didn't know the answer to that.
The only thing I could think to do
was to go back
to the beginning of my story
because I think that once you tell
your story over and over again,
you start to hear it,
and you start to think,
"Okay. How did I get here?"
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
And what it does,
what it emphasizes is you go back
to the purest form of Viola.
[Oprah] Wow, I know--
And you find out, she helps you define
what it is that you would call home.
You go back to this.
-[Viola] Yeah.
-You go back to this.
I mean, that's how I knew
in the first paragraph,
this is a book that everyone should read.
Well, I knew, like anything,
that when you start a book
is it's sort of like a salutation.
-[Oprah] Yes. Yes.
-And you say, "Hi. How are you?"
-You know? So
-[Oprah chuckling]
-So you did.
-[Viola] I did. I had to introduce me.
And me is always that little girl,
eight years-old, third grade,
who would wait
at the back door during dismissal.
And as soon as that bell rang,
I just ran over people.
I was pretty tough.
I ran over everyone so I can run home
because I knew the same eight
to nine boys were going to be chasing me,
calling me Black, ugly nigger,
and they would pick up anything
they could find on the side of the road,
bricks, sticks, anything.
And the vitriol
that would be thrown at me.
Um, and the level of hatred
when they were saying
those words of Black, ugly nigger.
And, um
and I would run, run, run, run, run.
-And I would chuck the finger. [chuckling]
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
I would say all the cuss words
and, um
But that really
is the memory that defined me.
Because what I always say is that
I thought I was really, really slick.
I was tough,
brought a crocheting needle to school.
Threatened them at one point,
got them to stop running after me,
but I always say
that I never stopped running.
My feet just stopped moving.
But as I went through my life,
as much as I tried
to put on that mask of bravery,
of confidence,
of being that sort of boss woman
that people talk about,
of you don't let anyone
see you, uh, sweat.
You know, if you wanna climb the ladder,
you gotta believe in yourself, girl.
So I put all the language
and the mask of that on,
but inside, absolutely,
was the damaged little girl
that I left in Central Falls
who really, really believed
that she was ugly.
That she was
not enough.
That's what defined me
more than anything else.
-I wish it were a different story. I do.
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
But it was so powerful,
and you know with girls--
Do youwish it now was a different story,
or are you like
Maya used to say,"I wouldn't take nothing
from my journey now."
Are you now at a stage where,
because of that little girl
and because of the terrorization
that you experienced on all levels,
that you recognized
that's why you are who you are?
Yes. I do.
I do recognize it.
Yeah. That without that,
there wouldn't be this.
I I do recognize it.
I do believe that your life
is sort of a dying of self.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
I do. In in the same way that a phoenix
rises out of the ashes, right?
And I do believe that it's a part
of your journey and finding yourself
is going
to these caves of trauma and vitriol
and all of those things.
And somehow in the midst of that,
it's like Joseph Campbell says,
as you go down this path of transformation
of really trying
to become your ideal self
you're gonna meet the part of yourself
that you don't wanna be.
You're gonna see all of your flaws.
You're gonna see
all the things that cause you pain.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
You're not gonna see God,
you're gonna see you.
And then you hope that [chuckling]
I think that I have it
in the first paragraph,
that, you know, when you meet that self
that you no longer wanna be,
you have two choices at that point.
You can just stay there
and be swallowed,
or you can move on.
I choose to move on.
I didn't want to be swallowed,
and I made that decision
at 28, 29 when I went into therapy
that I wanted to be different.
[somber music playing]
Tell me about your parents,
Dan and May Alice.
-Not Mary Alice. Not Mary.
-Dan and May Alice. Not Mary Alice.
I love, love, love, love my parents.
-[Oprah] My daddy and mama, you call 'em?
-[Viola] Yeah, my mama and daddy. I loved.
[Oprah] During her childhood,
Viola describes her father, Dan Davis,
as strict and violent,
but also the first man who loved me.
Viola writes that her father,
because of his circumstances,
had a 5th-grade education
and ran away
from an abusive home at age 15.
He worked most of his life
as a horse groomer.
Viola calls her mother, May Alice, loyal,
a self-sacrificer, and a maternal warrior.
May Alice was raised
on a plantation in South Carolina
and gave birth to Viola there.
Her mother worked in factories
and as a maid,
and fought for welfare reform
in the 1970s.
Viola's parents were challenged
by racism, poverty, addiction, and abuse,
but stayed married for 48 years
until Dan Davis's death at age 70.
They raised Viola and her five siblings
together in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
But it was just a life of abject poverty.
It was a life of deprivation.
That that's what it was.
A life of deprivation.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
-No food
[Viola chuckling]
I thought I grew up poor, Viola,
until I read your story.
-[Viola laughing] Yeah. Po'.
-So I will now say, "Hello."
-"I bow to po'." Okay?
-I grew up poor.
I was not po'.
You you were--
And you know what how people say
many people say,
"I grew up poor and I didn't know it"?
You all knew it.
Yep. Absolutely.
-I say we knew we were po'.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
[Viola] You know,
the plaster coming off the walls,
and, um, always being hungry.
-This is not fun--
-[Oprah] In cold Rhode Island.
[Viola] Freezing, plumbing never working.
You know, you had to fill
the bucket of water
to put in the toilet to flush it.
Never having a phone.
Never having a phone.
And, um, wetting the bed.
-I was a serious bed-wetter.
-[Oprah] Hmm.
Most of the furniture
We we got some furniture
on the side of the road.
Most of the furniture from Salvation Army.
-You were a bed-wetter until you were 14.
[Viola] Fourteen.
An apartment, one of our first apartments,
infested with rats.
An infestation.
I mean, at night you had
to put your hands over your ears,
so you couldn't hear them
eating the pigeons on the roof at night.
And and listening to them
eat your toys at night
and jump on top of you in the bed.
This is the line that got me.
I'm gonna stop with the jump
I wanna interrupt the "jump on top of me
in bed," 'cause just the thought of that
But this is what got me.
And I I remember so vividly thinking,
I've read a lot of novels,
a lot of
a lot of memoirs, a lot of history.
I mean, not even Pecola Breedlove
in The Bluest Eye.
Pecola Breedlove is pretty hard.
[Oprah] Pretty hard,
but not even Pecola Breedlove had--
"There were several fires and the building
soon became infested with rats."
"In fact, the rats were so bad,
they ate the faces off my dolls."
"I never, ever went into the kitchen."
"Rats had taken over
the cabinets and the counter."
"The plaster
was constantly falling off the wall,
revealing the wooden boards
holding the house together."
I remember growing up in a flat,
you know, on welfare with my mother
too afraid to go into the kitchen at night
'cause they would come out from behind
the refrigerator and the cabinets.
-[Viola] Yes.
Absolutely. And then my sister,
uh, Diane, um [chuckling]
She was reading stories of rats
eating babies in Harlem in the cribs.
So then then she told it to us,
and then we felt like we had to wrap, um,
coats or shirtsaround our necks at night
to keep the rats from biting our necks.
And, um and we would listen to them--
And they would jump on the bed.
They would jump on the bed
and eating the [scoffing]
'Cause I had a doll that had
what, um was made of hard plastic.
-So like porcelain.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
I had one doll like that.
-And to hear the eating of that doll.
-[Oprah sucking teeth]
-[Viola] I mean loud. The crunching.
And then when I woke up,
the entire face was gone.
[Viola chuckling lightly]
[Oprah] There was a shocking point
in the book,
where you were talking
about the violence in your home.
And there was a seminal moment
when your father
was beating on your mother,
and you tried to stand between them.
And he had taken a glass
and had cut her in the face.
-[Viola] Yeah.
-Describe that moment.
Put us in the story.
Yes. It was a particularly violent fight
when my father said,
"I'm gonna
I'm gonna bust your head open May Alice."
And I had my baby sister in my hand,
and, um, I was so terrified.
It just got really heated,
and he finally he smashed her head
with the with the glass.
-[Oprah] Oh.
-And the blood came spurting out.
And by that point, my fear, um
my fear had had taken over,
and I just remember screaming, "Stop it!"
"Just stop!"
"Give me the glass!"
And I can't tell you,
it's sort of like, um
I don't know,
coming face-to-face with a giant.
Coming face-to-face with your fear.
This is my father.
And, first of all,
you never told Dan Davis what to do.
-[Oprah] Right.
-I was terrified.
We grew up in the in the era
where you don't talk back
to your parents anyway.
-At all.
-At all.
So here I was doing the unnatural thing,
which is telling a parent
to stop doing something
that he should not have been doing.
And I can't tell you that
how much it cost me something
to step outside and this--
especially at 14
[sighing] you need a parent.
[Oprah] Yes. Yes.
You need a guide.
That person with, sort of, that lamp.
-[Viola] That proverbial lamp.
That's gonna take you down darkened paths,
and gonna teach you
something about navigating life,
even though, you know,
you're still gonna face some crap in life.
But someone to show you
how to do what they did.
Yeah. You're not supposed
to be showing them.
-No. Not at all.
-[Oprah] Yes. Yeah.
And for me, it cost me something
to tell a parent to don't do that.
You're gonna kill my mom.
I I wasn't
I did not have the emotional maturity,
an an an engine to be able to do that.
But I found myself doing it anyway.
But the surprise of that now,
and I think I wrote it in the book,
is that I had it in me.
[Oprah] Yeah.
I had a different sorta strength in me
that maybe I couldn't see at the time
-That's what you wrote.
-but was ever-present.
And that moment
actually caused a shift in you
to realize that you did have it in you.
[Viola] Yeah. I think, uh, it did.
-Like after that, a lot of things changed.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
[Viola] Fourteen was the age I decided
I was gonna be an actress.
Fourteen was the age
that I won a major art contest,
and I thought I was Slick Willie
for doing that.
Fourteen was the age
that I realized I really wanted out,
and I saw a way out.
A hole had been been blasted
through this cave that I was in.
[Oprah] Yeah. I wanna just say to everyone
that you eventually forgave your father,
and became very close with him
towards the end of his life.
And that you understood as an adult
that he was dealing with his own demons
and had come from, you know,
such hardship and such tragedy and such--
Literally, you know, not being seen
and and victimized himself.
Well, they say that
that's what successful therapy is.
That when the day comes when you realize
that your parents did the best they could
with what they had.
And In the end you realized
that he loved you.
How did you know, Viola?
Because he told me and he showed me
every single day.
[birds chirping]
Even when he would
be in the car with me driving,
and I drove into a parking lot,
he would say,
"Boy, that's so good, daughter."
"You such a great driver.
I love you so much."
He would go to
He went to all of our plays
even if they were in New York.
-Was it hard, though, to forgive?
Because I remember when I was
Gayle and I were talking about your book,
and she was saying, "I just don't
understand how you can forgive
when a parent has done so much damage."
Was it hard for you to forgive?
-Absolutely it was.
-[Oprah] Mm.
It is, and it still is, I would say.
But it's a choice.
You actually use a line in here
that I often use for describing,
you know, forgiveness.
That it's giving up hope
that the past could've been different.
-[Viola] Yeah.
-And you use that line in here.
So you had reached that point
and recognize
that I can't change what it was.
-[Viola] Absolutely.
-And so I'm just going to march forward.
Yeah. I mean, listen,
uh, y-you know
At the end of the day,
that's what we're all trying to do.
We're all trying to do the best we can
with what we've been given.
-And that's it.
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
We just don't have a face
of what that looks like.
I think that sometimes
we watch too much TV.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
And we we want lives
to be played out the same way.
A 41-minute drama is played out
on Thursday night lineup--
-And it don't work that way.
-[Viola] And it doesn't work that way.
That everything is
becomes a, sort of, extension
to how much you're willing to accept
the life that God gave you
and how much bravery you have
to forge ahead
and create the life
that you actually want.
Want. Yes, ma'am.
And it becomes, you know, it's like
My therapist told me
that life is about two things.
Living life for pleasure,
and gratefulness, and joy,
but also the understanding
that the downtime is gonna come.
-Ugh. Yes.
-And if you can, sort of
be somewhere in the middle
of that and understanding that,
then you could, sort of
It's survivable.
For me, when I was younger,
I thought I was cursed.
I was like, "Okay, um,
you know, no one thinks I'm cute."
"So I don't have that."
"I'm poor. I don't have any money,
any resources." [chuckling]
You know,
I have a lot of violence in the family.
I was like, "Where's my sunlight?"
"Where is it?"
Until once again, this is the power.
I say it to people all the time.
You find people in your life who love you.
And what those people do,
because they love you,
and they love all of you, even your flaws,
is they give you permission
to be able to love yourself.
What do I mean by that?
Ron Stetson who said,
"Don't you know, you're beautiful, Viola?"
"I've always seen you as beautiful."
"You do?"
-Okay. I wanna go to that moment.
The first time you show up
at Upward Bound,
this is an organization
that's helping kids from the inner city.
I love this moment
where Ron is talking about,
uh, what it means to be an actor.
And every "Who wants to be an actor?"
He asks the question.
And everybody raises their hand.
And as he continues to talk
about how difficult it is to be an actor
How many rejections you're gonna have,
how hard you're gonna have to work,
how many times you get turned down.
the hands start going down,
and the hands start going down,
and the hands start going down,
and yours is the last hand remaining.
And you say that my dreams
were bigger than my fears.
[Viola] Absolutely.
I needed a dream
like I needed food and water.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
That dream wasn't just a goal.
That dream was my way out,
was my, sort of, salvation.
You know,
I just wanna interrupt here to say, uh
You know, I grew up poor.
Having read your story,
I I don't even understand,
uh, poverty
like the kind you have experienced.
And what I came away from, the book,
believing is that the shame of it,
the shame of it is actually the worst.
And there is a story that you tell here
about a time
where the electricity was off,
there was no gas, the pipes were frozen,
you all had all wet the bed.
Everybody is at home,you can't
There's nowhere you can go.
And your sister, Diane,
decided she was gonna go to school.
And she got up and she spit her face
and wiped her face and said,
-"I'm going. How do I look?"
And then your mother decided
you all were gonna leave to go find heat.
Can you describe that moment?
I just picture all of you walking down
the street in your,
you know,
shoes and the holes in your shoes.
-It's Rhode Island. It's snowing and cold.
-Freezing. Mm-hmm.
And the teacher,Mrs. Prosser,
comes out and sees you on the road
And says, "Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Davis,
why aren't your kids in school?"
"They haven't been in school all week."
And my mom says, "We don't have no heat."
"Um, the pipes are frozen,
so the water don't even come out."
"And we all really cold,
and we don't have no food."
And and then she, Mrs. Prosser,
who, once again,
you know, one of those people
that gives you permission.
[Viola] Okay. Um
She had tears in her eyes,
and she was touching our faces,
and she said, "I'm so sorry, Mrs. Davis."
"I'm so, so sorry."
"You let us know
whatever we can do, you know, for you."
"I'm so sorry."
But, you know,
Mrs. Prosser is interesting.
Mrs. Prosser would call me
to her office from time to time
with a bag
full of the most beautiful clothes
that were hand-me-downs from her daughter.
And she would give it to me
because she knew I needed clothes,
which by the way, I was like
it was like giving me just some jewels
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
When you are in the face of compassion
and empathy
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
it's amazing how it kills shame.
Because you're seen.
And you're seen for something
way more valuable than your circumstances.
[Oprah] Yeah.
That's why I bring her up. She saw you.
-She actually saw you.
I remember when,
I think it was a teacher or a nurse
who had come to
who had been assigned
to speak to you about hygiene
because you were wetting
the bed all the time.
So you'd come
to school smelling like urine,
and she gave you this lecture about
how to go home and clean up yourself,
and you did.
I think that at the end of the day,
what I was looking for is love.
That sort of radical power of love.
[Oprah] You have so many
beautiful moments like that in here.
I Do you know why
I love that moment so much?
Because I-- Teachers were my saviors.
-Absolutely, my saviors.
-[Oprah] Teachers were my saviors.
[Viola] Like I said,
there's power in love. It's radical.
But I can't describe, even in words,
that it was a hard, uh, story to tell
because at the same time, my sister
Deloris was also called to the office.
We were both called
because we smelled really bad that day.
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
Could you smell yourself?
Did you know you smelled?
-[Oprah] You did?
-I didn't know what to do about it.
You know, I think that people
just automatically assume,
well, you just clean yourself.
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
-Well, not if anyone doesn't show you.
Once again,
going back to the Stevie Wonder song.
"Show me how to do what you do.
Show me how to do it."
-No one showed me.
-[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
And we didn't have any hot water.
A lot of times we didn't have any soap.
A lot of times
we didn't even have any clean clothes.
You know, we'd wash the clothes
by hand the night before,
hang them up to dry,
and try not to hang them outside.
Because we'd hang them outside sometimes,
but it's cold.
-So, the next day, they're icicles.
-They'd freeze. Yes.
So you hang them out to dry,
and the next day,
if they're not dry, they're wet.
But then if you're not clean,
you're putting on wet clothes
It's all the
People don't realize
that if no one shows you,
then you have
to figure it out on your own.
And I didn't have the tools
to figure it figure it out on my own.
And then I was ashamed that I didn't have
the tools to figure it out on my own.
So then all I had,
all I could do was swim in the shame.
Yes. I love There's a line that you use.
I think it's on page 89
where you talk about
You're People are always saying,
"Just do better. Do better."
"Try harder.
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps."
But hard to pull yourself up
when you don't have a boot.
You know it's it's it's the vision
of what you want in your life.
Right? The Or the discovery
of what you wanna do.
It's a vision of where you wanna end up,
but there's this whole part
in between of how to get there.
[Oprah] Hmm.
That whole journey of someone
who gives you that rope,
that that that sword,
that, you know,
that knife, whatever.
That whole in between
is what you have to figure out.
And that was the thing
that became rickety.
That I wanted someone
to help me figure it out.
[Oprah] Yeah.
And In the midst of all this,
there's also sexual abuse
going on in the home.
There's nothing that didn't happen.
-You had sexual abuse.
-[Viola] Yeah.
Violence going on in the home.
You have the tyranny
of colorism, sexism, racism.
I was so struck by the fact
that your mother's story
that she only went to the 8th grade
because she was beaten in school
by the light-skinned teacher
for not being light enough.
And that the same thing happened
to your sister Diane
when she was in South Carolina.
Beaten by the teachers
for not being light enough.
Beaten by Black teachers
in a segregated school
for not being light enough.
You know, I think that
failure and hardship
is an interesting learning tool.
Because I think that once you hit bottom,
then you either stay there
or you figure out how to rise up.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
And I think
that that's what happened with all of us.
Even my sister Diane back in the day,
and my mom,
that you either survive or you don't.
[Oprah] The sisters,
you all were your own little army.
[Viola] Mm-hmm.
[Oprah] Where would you be
without your sisters?
-[Viola] Yeah. [laughing]
-You said you all were your own platoon.
-Yes. Absolutely.
-[Oprah] Yeah. Yeah.
[Oprah] And on page 75,
you write this about your sisters.
You say, "Some battles we won,
survived together
and emerged with laughter and perspective,
and some brutal ones,
sexual abuse, we lost."
"Sexual abuse back in the day
didn't even have a name."
No, it didn't.
It's just, you know,
that dirty old man on the street,
you know, who wanted to give you
a quarter, but then wanted a kiss.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
No one knows what boundaries are
with little girls,
especially back in the day.
So, if a a guy said,
you know, "Give me a kiss."
Someone said, "Oh, give him a kiss.
It's not a big deal."
Or someone leaves you
with a male babysitter
because that male babysitter
is a friend of the family.
And then your parents go out
and they leave you alone.
They don't think anything of it.
You know, we didn't have social media
back in the day
where people would talk about statistics
of how many girls are molested--
That's right. Wasn't even
wasn't even wasn't even a word for it.
But I think what you've done in this book
is revealed a part of yourself
that is really a part of us all.
[Oprah] Every person
who's struggling for self-love,
and I just so appreciate
you being honest enough to be able to say
that when you were first on stage,
and you would get
the adulation and the applause,
and the people saying, "I'm so moved
by what you've done and what you acted,"
that you
At first, you are satiated by that,
for a moment,
but then you come to recognize that that
really has nothing to do with self-love,
and actually begins to create
this feeling of being an impostor.
You feel, first of all, you feel
an impostor in your work. [chuckling]
I didn't wanna feel
the impostor in my life.
I would think
this book is my gift to others.
[Oprah] Yes.
I felt like it was, uh it was a sort of
It was a gift to yourself.
It was a releasing for yourself,
but and in that releasing,
all the other people
are gonna be so served by this story.
-I hope so.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
It's my way of owning my story.
It's my way of not, sort of,
sweeping it under the rug
and creating this other image of me
because I feel like
in creating this different image,
it's proving to those boys
that I actually was all those things
[Oprah] That they tried to call you.
-[Viola] Absolutely.
-That they called you.
Or tried to make you believe.
And that you believed
for such a long time.
Yes. Yeah.
I would have to say
what I came away from Finding Me,
thinking I dis-- discovered anew about you
is that you have this indomitable courage.
It's courage.
You know Maya used to always say,
"Courage is the most important
of the virtues
because without it,
you cannot practice anything."
And in here, Finding Me,
you talk about courage is the real cure.
So there was a
there was a point in your life
where you had decided
that you were just gonna be a teacher,
and you were not gonna act,
even though you loved it you loved it.
And share with everyone
how you started to feel depressed.
There was a sadness that came over you
because you were not doing
the thing that you knew you needed to do.
Yeah, when I went to college,
when I first entered college,
um, I said I can't major in theater.
That is not a profession
that can pay the bills.
And I really needed to pay my bills.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
-'Cause I did not wanna be on welfare.
I wanted to not be what my
what I felt my parents were.
[Viola] And so then
I fell into a great depression
in denying that creative spirit in me
until I think my sisterDeloris said,
"Why aren't you majoring
in theater, Viola?"
And I said, "Because I can't
make any money doing that,Deloris."
She said, "But that's what you love to do.
That's who you are."
And, you know,
what you begin to understand
is that whole Anne Lamottquote, which is,
"All courage is,
is fear said with prayers."
[Oprah] Mm.
[Viola] That
I understood that the fear
was not gonna go away.
[inspirational music playing]
That, "Viola, there is a huge chance
that maybe it's not gonna land,
and it's not gonna work,
but dangonnit, it's worth the try."
-[Viola] You know?
[Oprah] Viola electrified the stages
of Rhode Island College,
graduating in 1988
with a degree in theater.
Because she could only afford just one
application fee for graduate school,
she auditioned for one
of the most prestigious programs,
Juilliard, and got in.
Three years after graduating
from Juilliard,
Viola made her Broadway debut
in August Wilson's, Seven Guitars.
Her rave reviews put her
on the next path to television and movies.
What's your name?
It's got nothing to do with me,
but that offer, he was a part of it.
[Oprah] When did you realize, Viola,
that being on stage or acting
was the path to healing for you?
Oh, the minute I started doing it.
The minute I did the first skit
when I was nine years old, I realized
it had the ability to heal me.
All the things
I couldn't expressin my life,
if I expressed it
on stage would be celebrated.
[Oprah] Mm.
[Viola] You play a character
who's a runaway
who has trauma from parents,
and you expressed all of that onstage
in a way that was honest and truthful,
then the audience celebrates it.
They celebrate seeing that level
of humanity,
and you can't express that
in your real life.
Oh, you can, but you risk being shamed.
[Viola chuckling]
So from the moment I started doing skits,
I felt like
whatever I can't express in my life,
I could do it in a character.
[Oprah] Mm.
I wanna just rip open
what it means to be a human being
and show it to you in all its ugliness,
beauty, contradictions, and complexity.
In that way,
I think that's what saved my life.
That's what healed me.
It was my conduit of being able to take
all the trauma, all the spew, everything,
and feed it
through that vacuum of these characters
and give it to you.
Re-- recreated.
'Cause one of the things
that you say is that,
"I'm not here"
"I-I'm not here to create some fantasy."
Your job, as you see it as an actor,
is to show us to ourselves.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
-And not the politically correct self.
-[Oprah] Yeah.
Dont you think it ever crossed my mind
to want to know other men?
That I wanted to lay up somewhere
and forget about my responsibilities?
That I wanted someone
to make me laugh so I can feel good?
[Viola] Those stories
that nobody wants to tell.
But I held on to you, Troy.
I took all my feelings,
my wants and needs and dreams,
and I buried them insideyou
[Viola] You know--
[Oprah] That's why you let snot run
with Rose, when the snot was running.
[both laughing]
[Oprah] That's why when the snot
was running in Fences you just say,
"That's what's happening with Rose.
I'm gonna let it roll." Right?
Absolutely. I think everybody
moves through life fighting to be seen.
Sometimes even by themselves,
to themselves.
And the bravery for an actor
is to look at a moment.
I did it with How To Get Away With Murder.
I said, "Listen,
I'm getting ready for bed."
"My husband
is cheating on me." [chuckling]
-I mean, it's a melodrama. Right?
-[Oprah] Yes.
So I can make a choice in this moment
of doing the TV thing,
which is to keep my beautiful hair weave
and wig and my makeup
and just turn around
and give him that one-line zinger,
or I can inject something in here.
Something that every woman
who's sitting there on their couch
with the retainers,
and their rollers, and no makeup--
-In our socks. Yeah.
-And, you know, in socks
can look at this and somehow feel
some level of connection to this story.
So let me take the wig off.
[emotional music playing]
[Viola] Let me take the makeup off
because in doing that,
what I'm presenting you with
is not the character of Annalise,
but the woman that is Annalise.
[Oprah] Wow.
And I read that it was you who insisted
that that happen in that scene.
-[Viola] Yes, it was.
-[Oprah] Yes.
What you wrote is, "Annalise Keating
released in me the obstacles blocking me
from realizing my worth
and power as a woman."
"If I were to mark
the first time I fully used my voice,
it was in How to Get Away with Murder."
"That role liberated me."
What was it about Annalise
that helped you step into your full power?
Because she was all the things
that people said, not only I wasn't,
but people who look like me weren't.
You're not sexual.
No one's gonna find you attractive.
You're probably not having sex
'cause who would wanna
who would, um, desire you?
This was happening
this was nine years ago.
So people were saying that nine years ago?
Absolutely. I always [laughing]
Yes, they were.
And that's why it was liberating
because it absolutely is not true.
just a fantasy of mine,
that there is any number of people
who are sitting at home
waiting to be a part of the story.
To see themselves.
To feel some level of validation.
And I felt thatAnnalise was a perfect way
for me to be able to do that.
Okay. I wanna get to to Julius
because he's such a
has been such a
He changed your whole life.
Everything changed.
So let's get to the story where you
You were talking to a friend and you said,
"I can't believe I
I keep running into all these assholes."
And she said, "Well, maybe
you should look at yourself."
-[Viola] Yeah.
And then you had a friend who told you
to go home and pray for who you wanted.
-[Viola] Mm-hmm.
-The kind of man you wanted.
And you actually got on your knees
and you asked God for
A big Black man. I said because he said,
"Viola, even
He said, "Even the vacuous stuff.
Just put it all in there."
"Looks, everything."
I said, "Really? With God?
I got to tell him that."
He's like, "Yes.
You gotta put it all out there."
He was like, "Be careful."
And I went I got on my knees,
and I did.
I said,
"I want a big Black man from the south
who's probably been married before,
has kids,
'cause I don't want any pressure
in that department.
Someone who's maybe been an actor
who understands the artistic community.
Someone who goes to church and loves God.
I said, "If you give me that,
I'll start going to church, God."
"I really will."
"I I'm I'm committed to it."
[laughs] And then I signed off
just like writing a letter.
And three and a half weeks later,
I met Julius from Texas.
Ex-football player, 'cause actually
that's one of the things I put on--
-[Oprah] You asked for a football player.
-[Viola] A football player. Athlete.
Ex- football player, been married.
Raised his children on his own.
Was an actor.
Invited me to church.
And, um,
I thought to myself,
Did you know immediately
that he is what you'd prayed for?
-[Oprah] You did?
[Viola] I went home. I was amazed.
I started calling.
Especially My friend Patrice, especially.
I said, "Patrice."
"I met a man."
[Oprah laughing]
[Viola] And she said,
"Girl no." I said, "Yeah."
"I really think I met somebody."
And then I made the connection
with her too. I told her everything.
I was shocked. Sort of like magic.
Um, yeah.
[Oprah] Your life hasn't been the same
since the two of you
actually became bonded together.
[Viola] It has not been the same.
[Oprah] That's why this book
is so important.
I called up Gayle. I go,
"You need to do what Viola did."
"You need to get down on your knees."
"You need to pray
and ask for what you want."
But also looking for the kind of life
he has led before you.
I was in therapy at the time,
and I remember my therapist just saying,
"Viola, find someone who loves you."
"Just find someone who loves you."
And I remember saying that to Julius too.
"I'm just looking for someone
who'd just lay down their life
for me, that loves me."
He's like, "I love you."
[Viola laughing]
And I remember we both stopped,
and I looked at him, and he looked at me.
-[Viola] You know?
He was like,
"I'm all those things, V. I am."
And then we we made something
to eat like we'd usually do. [laughing]
You say there are moments in your life
that absolutely live up to the hype.
And one of those moments
certainly was the adoption of Genesis.
[uplifting music playing]
[Oprah] How did it change you as a woman?
In 2011, Viola and her husband, Julius,
adopted a baby girl
who was living in foster care
in Viola's home state of Rhode Island.
They named her "Genesis."
Today Genesis is 11.
[Viola] Oh man, Genesis.
You know, to live
for something bigger than yourself.
I mean, that's what it was.
The first time she looked at me
and squeezed me
and made me believe
that I could be her mom,
and I could mother her and
And that, sort of, just really pure love
that only children can give you.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
[Viola] And I'll tell you one thing.
All of the tools you need
to raise a little girl,
the affirmations, all those things,
while you're doing that,
you're healing yourself.
[Oprah] Yeah. My next question is,
how have you navigated raising a daughter
when you never got what you needed
when you were being raised?
It's my opportunity to be able to do that.
And so does it feel
like giving that back to yourself?
-[Viola] Absolutely.
Little Viola is always running around.
[Oprah] Mm-hmm.
You know, sort of guiding me.
Yeah. And also Genesis
being very different from who I am
is helping me also see myself
in a different way.
[Oprah] You wrote this on social media
about your own mother, May Alice.
You said, "This is the woman who birthed
me, loves me, and would die for me."
"Our bond runs deeper
than anything man-made or given."
"No one can love you
like your mama loves you."
"Not even the love of your life."
So what did you learn from your own mother
that you have now been able
to pass on and transfer to Genesis?
Number one, that I believe my mom
did the best she could with what she knew.
[Oprah] Mm.
And also,
my mom is very smart.
My mom sees people
and she sees through people.
Oh, she could read them, right?
She's one who can read them.
-[Oprah] She could read 'em. Yeah.
I appreciate that.
Yeah. When I talk to you
about Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,
You said, one of the ways
you go into examining a character,
one of the many ways,
is by asking,
"What is this character living for?"
[Oprah] So I end
our conversation today with,
what are you, Viola Davis, now living for?
First of all, I'm living
for my peace and my joy.
[Oprah] Mm.
I am.
I wanna be happy in my life.
And I know happiness is a journey.
It's not a destination.
I know it's speckled with bad,
but I wanna feel some level
of peace and joy in my life.
To help people to live better.
You have done that.
In finding yourself,
you've helped all of us
who hear your story, who read your story,
who see you be the light you are
-Thank you.
-find a part of ourselves.
And I thank you so much.
I'm so excited
for people to read Finding Me.
It is astonishing
what you have been able to endure.
And for us to see you
to come into this other side of yourself,
makes it possible for us
to believe it's possible for ourselves.
So, thank you.
-Thank you, Oprah. [chuckling]
-[Oprah] Thank you, Viola.
I just wanna say to you all,
Finding Me is available on April 26th,
wherever books are sold.
And the audio book too.
[in Viola's voice]
Viola in her world-famous Viola voice
[in normal voice]reads her own story
that you all need to hear.
So I hope you'll get a book.
And when you get it, buy one for a friend,
'cause you're gonna want
to talk about it with a friend.
That's what I did with Gayle.
I got it, and then Gayle's like,
"Well, send me a copy."
So get it, and then get one for a friend.
Yeah. Thank you.
[inspirational music playing]
[music fades]