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Viola Davis is overjoyed that she gets a chance to play a character that could be considered sexy on primetime network TV.

Some people gave Viola the side-eye when she mentioned how happy she is that she gets to play a character like the shrewd attorney and college professor Annalise Keating on “How To Get Away With Murder.” But for her, the casting was validation.

“It feels awesome. It really does. I love it,” Viola told Essence.com before sharing that she worked for years to fit a mold that was not designed for her. “I went to Julliard in New York and I always tried to be the 90-pound White girl. Only because we did a lot of classical training and all of the ingénues in Shakespeare were very small women.”

Because of this, Viola often felt like she couldn’t be herself and be considered to play an alluring, complicated woman. “I tried to make myself small. Literally. I don’t know how I did that. I was like thinking, ‘Small. Light.’ I would try to have a higher voice, which sounds ridiculous,” said Viola. “I felt like there’s only one way to be sexy. It’s almost like I felt like I had to disappear.”

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That all changed when Viola was selected to play Annalise because it meant that show creator Shonda Rhimes was expanding the audience’s idea of what a sex symbol or leading lady could look like. “It feels really good to embrace exactly who I am and be my sexy or be my sexualized. To be my woman, you know? And it’s been the joy of my life. It really has and I think it found me at the right time of my life. When I really am very unapologetic for who I am.”

Viola added “That helps other women, too. I think women want to see themselves on TV. I think we’re in the 21st century, I think we have to woman up. I think a lot of women have womaned up and we want to see ourselves and it feels great.”


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