Category: Co-Stars

Cicely Tyson on Letting Loose Opposite the ‘Flawless’ Viola Davis in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

Viola’s co-star and friend the amazing Cicely Tyson spoke with Emmy Magazine about how amazing it is to work with Viola on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder.

TheWrap Emmy Magazine: “When I have an opportunity to work with someone that giving, it’s extraordinary,” Tyson says of the “How to Get Away With Murder” star

At 94 years old, Cicely Tyson finally has the ability to pick and choose any role she wants. “I’ve said this to a number of directors and writers recently, but I just would like to have fun,” Tyson said. “I want to do a role that’s funny, I want to do a foreign role. I just want to be an actress.”

That’s not a freedom Tyson has enjoyed throughout her career. That’s partially due to Hollywood’s historically limited offerings for African American actresses, but also because she came into the business with high standards for herself and an imposing sense of duty toward her community. At a press screening of her breakout film “Sounder” in 1972, Tyson recalled that a white man stood up after the movie ended and announced that he was upset by the portrayal of a black family whose sons referred to their father as “daddy” — because that was what his own two young sons called him.

“It was at that moment that I realized that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress,” Tyson said. “There were a number of issues that I needed to address, and I made the decision then to use my career as my platform. And as difficult as it was — I went for years without working because of this choice–ultimately I know I made the right choice.”

But now, seven decades into a trailblazing career as an activist and humanitarian, Tyson finally feels able to select whichever roles speak to her as an artist. And for the last five seasons, that’s meant guest starring on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” opposite Viola Davis. “One of the most talented actresses in the business — she’s flawless,” Tyson said of Davis, who herself has cited Tyson as an inspiration. “When I have an opportunity to work with someone that giving, it’s extraordinary. It doesn’t happen too often in one’s career.

“There isn’t a moment in a scene with her that I don’t feel that she is my daughter and that I am her mother,” she added. “It truly is a gift.”

“Ms. Tyson Has Always Been My Muse”: Viola Davis on the Life-Changing Magic of Cicely Tyson

Viola wrote this great piece for Vanity Fair about the talented Ms. Tyson whom she is not only co-stars with on HTGAWM but also her friend.

With a career spanning six decades and dozens of film credits, honorary Oscar winner Cicely Tyson is a bastion of Hollywood achievement. Viola Davis looks back at a lifetime of brilliant performances.

s. Cicely Tyson is elegance personified. She is excellence. She is courage. When I think of her, I think of the Stevie Wonder song: “Show me how to do like you. Show me how to do it.”

The first time I encountered her I was a little girl living in a tenement building in Central Falls, Rhode Island, where we had electricity in only one part of the apartment, and hooked our television into an extension cord we ran from one side to the other. There, sitting on the floor with my sisters, I watched the made-for-TV movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, in which she depicts a woman’s life from her enslavement on a southern plantation at about age 23, to her joining the civil rights movement at nearly 110. When my sister said, “That’s the same actress,” I couldn’t believe it. Back then, I lived in a sea of white faces, onscreen and off, and here was this woman who looked like me—and she was performing magic.

Good actors, through very hard work, are able to transform for a role, but Ms. Tyson—the Harlem-born daughter of immigrants, discovered in her teens by an Ebony magazine photographer—transcends that. She embodies the depth of a character, her history, her memory. It was impossible not to fall in love with everything she did, this chocolate girl with a short fro fighting to portray a wide-ranging humanity too rarely afforded to actresses of color: our sexuality, our anger, our joy, our wildness. As a teenager I watched her heart-rending performances in her Academy Award-nominated role in Sounder, and alongside Richard Pryor in Bustin’ Loose, and as a Chicago schoolteacher in The Marva Collins Story. Later, when I was a student at a Circle in the Square Theatre workshop, I came across photos of her on Broadway in the 60s, sharing the stage with Alvin Ailey and Claudia McNeil in Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, and shining in Sidney Poitier’s staging of Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights.

When I was cast as Annalise in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, I could think of no one other than Ms. Tyson to play her mother. Those first scenes we filmed together were more poignant than I could have imagined. There I was sitting on the floor like a little girl again, no wig, no makeup, and there was the then-91-year-old Ms. Tyson behind me, all grace and grit, her strong hands parting my hair and scratching my scalp the way hundreds of thousands of black mothers have done for their daughters; the way mine did for me.

A few years ago she told me a story about how, when she played Jane Foster on East Side/West Side with her own short hair, almost 50 years before I first bared my own on network television, she would get a boatload of mail every week—a boatload, she kept saying that word—from African American women who said she was a disgrace to the race, wearing her nappy hair and looking ugly on screen. “You also took that wig off, and you also got a boatload of messages,” she said to me. “But they were all positive.” Those famous Shakespeare lines comes to mind: “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.” Ms. Tyson has always been my muse, leading me down this path of life, holding the lantern, paving the way.

Build Series | Steve McQueen, Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez & Elizabeth Debicki Discuss “Widows”

From Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and co-writer and bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) comes a blistering, modern-day thriller set against the backdrop of crime, passion and corruption. “Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Oscar winner Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

Viola Davis: ‘I Always Want to Be a Complete Person’

Shondaland.com gives us a peek at the Widows Q&A.

In a post-screening Q+A, the cast and director of “Widows” talked collaboration, representation, and what they learned on set.

Steve McQueen’s latest effort, “Widows,” dropped onto Must See Lists late last year with little more than the reveal of its cast. After all, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a political thriller, heist, melodrama (yes, it’s all of these things) starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Daniel Kaluuya. And from the deep intimacy of its opening shot, to the many sharp twists throughout, “Widows” delivers. It is, without exaggeration (or spoilers), everything one might expect from a McQueen movie that also happens to be co-written by the mystery-thriller expert, Gillian Flynn.

Meshing together low stakes local politics and high stakes action, “Widows” follows Veronica (Davis), Linda (Rodriguez), and Alice (Debicki), three women whose dead husbands leave behind a few million dollars worth of unfinished business in their wake. When the widows’ lives are threatened by a wannabe Chicago Alderman, Jamal Manning (Henry) and his brother Jatemme (Kaluuya, in easily one of the scariest performances of the year), they have to take matters into their own hands in order to survive.

We were lucky enough to attend a recent screening that concluded with a Q+A panel featuring, McQueen, Davis, Rodriguez, and Kaluuya. In the brief time they had with the audience, each artist shared what originally drew them to the project, some of the lessons they took away, and a few gems that will definitely make our second viewings (and third, and fourth — to be honest, this movie is coming for its things this awards season) that much more compelling.

Why this project, and why now?
“… It’s just a case of wanting to tell stories. It’s that simple … I wanted to put that fabric of our current political and socio-political, racial, environment into the sort of DNA of [‘Widows’]. It’s honest. It had to happen, because otherwise, it becomes just another heist story. We all know about what’s happening around us, and to sort of put that into a narrative is very important. [The difficulty in arranging] child care. Horrific sort of politicians. False prophets. It’s in our everyday.” – Steve McQueen

“I have always wanted to be in an action movie, ever since ‘Get Christy Love.’ I’ve always wanted to kick somebody’s ass, because I wanted to kick people’s ass in life. And there was something about channeling that power [while making ‘Widows’] that I did like. But I didn’t necessarily sign on to it because of the action part of it. I signed on to it because I felt that it was a complete story. And [my character Veronica] was a complete character. And actually the thing that really struck me was [that] the core of [‘Widows’] was a love story. This woman is in love with a man, [Liam Neeson], and that is usually what’s not associated with me either. I always want to be a complete person. I always feel like that’s the elusive thing when it comes to people of color, you know what I mean?” – Viola Davis

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Viola to Present the Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing

Octavia Spencer Talks Competing with Viola for the Oscar

Okay how cute is Octavia! She talks about being up against Viola for the Oscar during her interview with Jimmy Fallon.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis On their Friendship and 20-Year Working Relationship

People did this awesome article about how Viola & Denzel met and how they built a friendship.

Denzel Washington doesn’t remember exactly when he met Viola Davis — but she does. It was 21 years ago when Davis was starring in the 1996 Broadway production of August Wilson’s play Seven Guitars.

“He came [backstage] and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I met Denzel Washington!’” Davis recalls to PEOPLE alongside her Fences costar and fellow Oscar nominee. The two became better acquainted years later when Washington, 62, cast Davis, 51, in his 2002 directorial debut, Antwone Fisher.

“I remember you were at the Trump Towers [in New York City] holding the auditions,” Davis says to Washington.

“I tell you what, it was a short audition process after that,” Washington remembers. “I’m not just saying that because you’re sitting here. [I thought] ‘I know there’s other folks sitting out there, I guess we’ll have a look at them because I don’t want them to feel bad.’ “

Their work together on Antwone Fisher was the official start of a very happy working relationship, although the two didn’t cross paths again until they began work on the 2010 Broadway production of Fences. The play, about a troubled 1950s family, won three Tony awards including best revival of a play and best actor and best actress for Washington and Davis.

Both actors agree that one of the main reasons they agreed to do the film version of Fences was the opportunity to work together again, along with several of the other original actors from the play.

“You miss these actors,” says Davis. “Usually I hate being the only girl because I feel like I’m so shy and awkward, I don’t like being around a lot of male energy.”

“Look at her, as she pulls her coat closed,” laughs Washington, watching Davis. “That’s interesting.”

“I know but I just loved being around all of [them],” she adds. “They’re just great, great men. To me Denzel is familiar, he’s easy. It’s like I know him. It’s like, ‘That’s Denzel.’ I feel that it’s always been that way. He, his wife, his kids, and at the same time, I’m a fan. I don’t like telling him that but I’m a fan. But I think he always makes interesting choices, I think it’s always rooted in truth and humanity and I think he has a lot of courage, he’s not a wimp and I like that. I think it takes a lot of courage to be an artist and to really go for it with your ideas, he has all that.”

“And thank you, goodnight,” laughs Washington at the compliments. “And, scene!”

So how does Washington feel about Davis?

“I just like Viola,” he says. “Viola is a great actor, I love working with her and I love watching her. I love being a part of it. It’s interesting working with her because we’ve worked together twice, but in both those cases other than the play I directed her, but not really directed her. When we did Antwone Fisher, because we’re actors, I recognize one when I see one. I know how I am and I could see she wanted to be left alone [during filming], she was in the zone, so I knew what to do. Just leave her alone and just watch.”

I don’t want to just say a cliché answer, she’s good and I love her,” he adds. “She’s a sweet lady and she’s talented and here we are.”

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