Viola Davis is sharing the good, bad, and ugly in her new memoir, Finding Me. She details a childhood riddled with poverty and abuse that she’s carried with her into adulthood. In one passage of the book, Davis says a talk she had with Will Smith made her rethink her outlook on life.
The ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ star says she couldn’t escape her traumatizing childhood
Davis writes about her time on set with Smith filming Suicide Squad. During a break in filming, she says the Oscar-winner asked her, “Viola, who are you?” Her response changed everything.
"Look, I'm always going to be that 15-year-old boy whose girlfriend broke up with him," she told Smith. "That's always going to be me. So, who are you?"
Afterward, she says she knew things had to adjust in regards the way that she viewed herself. “There I was, a working actress with steady gigs, Broadway credits, multiple industry awards, and a reputation of bringing professionalism and excellence to any project,” she writes, per USA Today. “Hell, Oprah knew who I was. Yet, sitting there conversing with Will Smith, I was still that little, terrified, third-grade Black girl.”
In her recent Netflix interview special with Oprah Winfrey, Davis shares memories of bullying at the hands of her classmates
Davis grew up impoverished in a large family in Rhode Island. She told Oprah that she often went to school unbathed, with dirty clothes, unkempt hair, and starving. Kids in her class were not kind to her.
In the book, she writes that “eight or nine white boys in my class made it their daily, end-of-school ritual to chase me like dogs hunting prey.”
She eventually learned to fight back, verbally and physically. But, she remained scarred for much of her adulthood.