Viola Davis made history Sunday night by being the first black actress to win an Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama series at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards. The "How to Get Away With Murder" star further impressed viewers and audience members alike by delivering a speech in which she acknowledged the diversity issues Hollywood has been facing for decades. International Business Times reporter Monica Castillo was present in the press room for the 67th Annual award show where she was able to get more commentary from Davis, 50, on the matter.
The seasoned actress was asked to comment on controversial remarks by actor Matt Damon regarding the diversification of Hollywood. Davis struggled to understand exactly what the "Project Greenlight" actor meant without hearing the audio in it's entirety, but shared with reporters that, in her opinion, people as a whole "don't know how to discuss race." She went on to say that people seem to feel that talking about it feels like an indictment, where they have to defend themselves. Davis, however, said if everyone was more willing to acknowledge the injustices faced by people of color it wouldn't have to be that way.
"I just think that people don't know how to discuss race. It's kind of like sexuality," she said. "It's possible to come together and agree, disagree, but -- I don't know if it's because of the history that we've had that it feels like an indictment if you do that but, like I said, when Harriet Tubman said, 'you know, I'm always trying to get that line, but I can't seem to know how,' people need to understand that there is a line and there is a difference when it comes to actors of color in this business."
In addition, Davis called on writers to stop type-casting men and women of color. She shared with those in the press room that Shonda Rhimes, who created "HTGAWM," did not write Annalise Keating as a black woman -- she became black when Davis assumed the role. The 35-year acting veteran also asked that actors recall their days of acting school when "you just [thought] the sky's the limit in terms of how you can portray a human being." She claimed that the business, as it stands now, has molded actors and actresses to believe that they are only able to take on certain roles and said it's time we break through those barriers.
"One of the things I admire about Shondaland is Annalise Keating was not written specifically for a black woman. I made her black because I'm black, but what needs to happen in the writing is when you put pen to paper, you've got to let your imagination fly," she said. "It's only ones you get out there in your profession that people say, 'you can only be a judge, you're not cute enough to be a leading lady, you can only be a doctor, you can only be authoritative, you can only be what we define as black.' I don't know what that means."
As we previously reported, Davis blew viewers away with her acceptance speech which featured a powerful quote from Harriet Tubman. The quote discussed the "line" black men and women in the acting business have to repeatedly try to overcome and their struggle to do so. She told viewers that, "sometimes the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." Davis added that there was a serious lack of opportunity for women of color in Hollywood before thanking "HTGAWM" writers, Rhimes and Peter Nowalk. She also thanked several other black leading ladies in television, including Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union.
Check out her full speech below: