Sitting down for an interview with People, Viola Davis opened up about the difficulties she faced as a child, including her relationship with her abusive father. The Central Falls, Rhode Island, native said her father, Dan, inflicted physical and emotional abuse on her mother, Mae Alice, for years.
Dan died from pancreatic cancer in 2006. But he made peace with his wife before he died. The couple stayed together for 48 years.
“My dad changed,” Davis told People. “My mom said he apologized to her every single day. Every single day, he rubbed her feet. Forgiveness is not pretty. Sometimes people don’t understand that life is not a Thursday-night lineup on ABC. It is messy. He did hurt me then, but love and forgiveness can operate on the same plane as anger.”
The TV star said she feels relieved because she has forgiven her father.
“I wanted to love my dad,” she said. “And here’s the thing: My dad loved me. I saw it. I felt it. I received it, and I took it. For me, that’s a much better gift and less of a burden than going through my entire life carrying that big, heavy weight of who he used to be and what he used to do. That’s my choice. That’s my legacy: forgiving my dad.”
Davis also revealed that she and her five siblings struggled to find food while growing up. The 56-year-old said they would have to dumpster-dive for food, adding that she was also bullied by boys.
“How you react is based on survival,” the Oscar-winning actress, who tells her story in her new memoir, Finding Me, said. “The key is to survive. I did what was at my hand to do at 8 years old. I fought. And that fighting served me because I’m still on my feet.”
The How to Get Away With Murder star has been married to actor Julius Tennon for 19 years. Now, the couple is raising their daughter Genesis, 11.
“I count it all as joy. I do. All of those things happened to me, but I own it. And it’s a part of who I am,” Davis said. “It’s given me an extraordinary sense of compassion. It’s reconciling that young girl in me and healing from the past — and finding home.”