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Viola Davis has earned raves for such films as Doubt and The Help, and for such Broadway plays as King Hedley II and Fences.
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Both Davis and Washington won Tony Awards for their work on the production.
In 2011, Davis co-starred with Emma Stone,
Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard in the film adaptation of the best-selling book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This 1960s drama shows the racial divide between white housewives and their African-American servants in a Southern town.
In the film, Davis plays Ailbileen, a maid who is interviewed by a young white writer named Skeeter -for a book about the lives of "the help." The experiences of her character are familiar to Davis. "The women in this story were like my mother, my grandmother," she explained to Variety. "Women born and raised in the Deep South, working in tobacco and cotton fields, taking care of their kids and other people's kids, cleaning homes."
Davis worked with the director and screenwriter Tate Taylor to refine her character, making sure that her responses and actions were believable. Because racial tensions were so high during the time that the film is set in, she believed her character would have been afraid of saying too much to anyone. Davis played Aibileen with great restraint and won extensive praise for her work on the film.
As an African-American actress, Davis continues to look for more meaningful roles and perhaps start up some projects of her own. "It is a time when Black women now have no choice but to take matters in their own hands and create images for ourselves ... It's up to us to look for the material, it's up to us to produce it ourselves, it's up to us to choose the stories."
Davis lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Julius Tennon. The couple adopted a daughter, Genesis, in 2011.
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Some of the most inspirational films in history are those about an educator's lasting impact on his or her students. For instance, in To Sir, with Love, Sidney Poitier stars as a newly hired London school teacher; Mr. Holland's Opus, starring Richard Dreyfuss, tells the story of an impassioned high school music teacher; Michelle Pfeiffer plays a marine turned educator of an inner-city school in Dangerous Minds; in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams plays a motivational English professor; and Hilary Swank garnered fame for her role as a compassionate educator in Freedom Writers. For more on famous educators of the big-screen, visit Biography.com's group of Famous Movie Teachers.
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