During a lesson at college a teacher asked Viola Davis' class to raise their hands if they wanted to be an actor. She then proceeded to fill them in on the hard facts about the career, including the scarcity of work, financial hardship and no sick pay. When she'd finished Viola was the only one left with her hand still in the air.
Both a celebrated stage performer, she's had roles on and off Broadway, and screen actress movie roles include Traffic, Solaris and Doubt - Viola was born in South Carolina in August 1965, moving with her underprivileged family as a youngster to Rhode Island in New England.
There, as a teenager, her talent earned her a scholarship at a performing arts school and she went on to study theatre at college, before spending four years at New York's prestigious school for the performing arts Juilliard.
Her first big stage role was 1996 tragi-comedy Seven Guitars, which brought her rave reviews and a Tony nod. Other stage highlights include Everybody's Ruby and King Hedley II. It was her performance as Tonya, a 35-year-old mother fighting for her right to an abortion, in the latter which eventually secured her a best actress Tony in 2001.
Viola has a close working relationship with director Steven Soderbergh, appearing in his films Out Of Sight, Solaris both starring George Clooney and Traffic. She's also often recognised for her role in 2002 drama Antwone Fisher, Denzel Washington's directorial debut.
Her breakthrough role came in 2008, when she landed the part of Mrs Miller in Doubt alongside Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
\"So many African-American actresses were lined up to play that role because it's considered to be one of the greatest roles for an African-American woman in the last couple of years,\" she explained at the time.
Although brief she's only on screen for 11 minutes her portrayal of the mother of a young boy suspected of being molested, earned her both a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.