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How to Get Away with Murder's Viola Davis Laments One-Dimensional Roles for Black Actresses on TV

The actress also says leave her alone when she's walking in heels

Mekeisha Madden Toby

Fans of How to Get Away with Murder still don't know for sure if Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), is dead or alive, but we all know the show is coming to an end. Davis, the Emmy and Oscar winning actress who makes Annalise the fabulously flawed woman that she is, has a few theories on how television will look when the sixth and final season of her ABC series ends early next year.

"I just personally think that no one explores the black pathology at all," Davis told fans Tuesday night during a panel at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, accompanied by her costars and series creator Peter Nowalk. "There's any number of announcements -- Oh boy! I'm probably going to get in trouble. I shouldn't have drank that glass of wine -- There's any number of announcements on Deadline of yet another terrific black actor announcing yet another great project, but they're always detectives."

Davis added that the black actresses who are currently leading shows on TV are still being pigeonholed.

"If it's a black woman, especially if she looks like me, she is strong [and] she has no vagina," Davis quipped. "If she does have a vagina, it's dedicated to one man...So I think that anyone who is willing to write for a black female, who has an ass and thighs and a wide nose and big lips, should be allowed to do it.

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"I don't even care if it's a wrong decision. I don't even care if it pisses anyone off," Davis continued. "Because once Annalise Keating -- not Viola Davis -- Annalise Keating is off the air, you probably will have three female black leads on TV. That's Simone Missick, Rutina Wesley and Issa Rae. You could probably think of someone else, but that's the truth, ok? And she doesn't have to be a hero. She doesn't have to represent some social message. She just has to be human so you can understand that she's just like you. And that's the most revolutionary thing that we can do right now."

But Davis wasn't all serious all the time during the event, which also celebrated How to Get Away with Murder's cultural impact. Davis also talked about how she almost turned down the role because she'd previously suffered through nine failed pilots.

She also noted that the role wasn't originally written for an African American actress and that ABC and executive producers Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers had considered stars such as Diane Lane and Jennifer Connelly for the part.

"Annalise is sexualized and sociopathic. I'm used to wearing aprons and holding babies," Davis joked. "I remember saying, 'I want to be a real woman and I don't have to walk around in heels.' Because I know y'all talk about me walking in my heels, and that's a little f---ed up of y'all, but I said yes and it totally changed my life."

How to Get Away with Murder airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.


Viola Davis stars on How to Get Away with Murder.

Brian To/The Paley Center for Media