This week we’re celebrating the recipient of Film at Lincoln Center’s 48th Chaplin Award, one of America’s preeminent actresses: Viola Davis, who has dazzled us for over three decades on the stage and the screen, and whose life story is as inspirational as her craft. 

In an in-depth tribute essay for Film Comment, Soraya Nadia McDonald writes that “Davis is very much a daughter of the American South, whose experiences have been shaped by the darkness of her skin and the tightness of the curls in her hair. The childhood of poverty, abuse, and invisibility she writes of in her memoir could easily come from a play by August Wilson. But hers is also a tale of triumph, of overcoming odds and learning to love herself through her remarkable talent as an actor. To turn away from Davis, to look away from all that she evokes and represents, is to avoid facing the past and present of this country.”

A couple of days ago, I sat down with Davis to dig into some of the most memorable on-screen moments from her career, and how she shapes her formidable performances by being a keen observer of life. We discussed her iconic turns in Denzel Washington’s Fences, Steve McQueen’s Widows, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King, and some deeper cuts, like her early role in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight.

      Listen to [show name] on RadioPublic