The 51-year-old actress, who recently scooped her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in drama Fences, has been vocal about her tough upbringing and previously revealed she lived in a "rat-infested and condemned" apartment with her family as a child.
Now, as a Hollywood star, Viola is still trying to get her head around how things have changed so much.
“I was the kind of poor where I knew right away I had less than everyone around me,” she recalled in the new issue of People magazine. “We had nothing... I cannot believe my life (now). I just can’t. I’m so blessed.”
Viola’s win at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday (26Feb17) marked the third time she was nominated, and she also became the first black actress to receive three nods from the prestigious organisation. She was previously in the running for her roles in 2011’s The Help and 2008 movie Doubt.
Discussing what first sparked her interest in performing, Viola recalled watching actress Cicely Tyson in 1974’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and feeling inspired.
“It wasn’t until then that I had a visual manifestation of the target I wanted to hit,” Viola shared. “She helped me have a very specific drive of how I was going to crawl, walk, run from that environment.”
Little did the star know that she’d be starring opposite Cicely in both The Help and her hit TV series How to Get Away with Murder, in which Viola plays high-profile defense attorney Annalise Keating.
Viola also touched upon her personal life with husband of 13 years, actor Julius Tennon, and their young daughter Genesis, who the couple adopted as a newborn. She noted that nothing makes her happier than playing with her daughter, whether it be at the mall or family restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese’s.
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