In her Emmy-winning speech last night, Viola Davis gave a major shout-out to the peers who made her win possible. Black actresses have supported and uplifted one another in a profession that’s almost entirely whitewashed. When Viola recognized this equally deserving women—who she’s been in competition over roles since forever— it gave rise to one of the most epic moments in Emmy history.
“And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy,” she said.
The actresses Viola mentioned have been in the game forever. We’ve seen them in movies for years upon years, but thanks to the How to Get Away with Murder actress, all of America will now know their names.
Here’s a list of the talented actresses Viola name-dropped in her Emmy acceptance speech, and their most notable roles. They should be celebrated, along with all actors and actresses of color: past, present, and future.
Taraji P. Henson
We knew her first as Yvette, the woman who was just too relatable it hurt from Baby Boy, and the hoe with the most sincere heart you’d ever come across in Hustle & Flow, before she even stepped on the set of Empire. Taraji was in the Best Actress Emmy race last night with Viola, who ultimately took home the historic award. She’s certainly made some waves since her acting start, but nothing quite like when she played the Oscar-nominated role of Queenie, Brad Pitt’s caregiver in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
She’s conquered the stage, film, and now television, thanks to her Shonda Rhimes-powered role as Olivia Pope on Scandal. With monster ratings, Kerry has helped break down barriers for Black women. Even though the ABC show has only been on the air for a short time, it’s helped prove that Black stories and lives shouldn’t be easily passed over.
Gabrielle has been in the acting game for too long to still be underrated. After years of playing teenagers in 7th Heaven and Bring It On, Gabby finally gets to explore all the facets that make her a powerful woman on BET’s Being Mary Jane. She shows all types of viewers week after week that a successful Black woman isn’t too off from her counterparts, and she still deserves the same amount of respect.
What don’t we know about Halle Berry, the actress who’s halfway to being an EGOT (someone who wins an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award) herself? Making history is in her DNA, as the first Black woman to take home the Best Actress statue at the Oscars in 2002. She also nabbed the Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for her role as her doppelgänger, Dorothy Dandridge. One of Halle’s most notable roles happened to be her first film with director Spike Lee as Gator’s crack addict girlfriend in Jungle Fever.
A relative newcomer compared to the other women on the list, Nicole has been at the helm of her FOX show Sleepy Hollow for three seasons now, and that’s not an easy accomplishment. Her role as Lt. Grace Abigail Mills has already gained her a few award nominations, including an NAACP Image Award. There’s no doubt we will be seeing more of Nicole Beharie.
The only child star on the list, Meagan Good has acted along some Hollywood heavyweights like Lynn Whitfield, Gregory Hines, Will Ferrell, and David Duchovny. But nothing quite changed the way we saw Meagan like when she played a sassy, yet coy child in 1997’s Eve’s Bayou. For a kid, she displayed such range and depth, not something we see captured in just any old actor. Still at it, Good continues breaking down more walls for Black actresses, and she’s starring in the sci-fi TV series Minority Report this fall.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty