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Rhode Island loves visits from homegrown hero Viola Davis. Here, she delivers the keynote address during the 2012 commencement ceremony at Providence College.
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Davis and her husband, actor Julius Tennon, announced they’d adopted Genesis in October 2011, while Davis’ life was a flurry of award acceptances and promotion for The Help. In fact, her Help co-star Octavia Spencer was the first to make the news public, congratulating her colleague on becoming a mom as she presented her with an honor from Elle magazine for being one of Hollywood’s most powerful actresses.

The timing may sound complicated, but not to Davis. “My entire life, I had been on the path of just an artist. I went to undergrad, I majored in theater, I was in New York pounding pavements, I went to Juilliard — you know, total artist, lived for my work. And then midlife hit me. And I realized that it wasn’t getting me out of bed in the morning, trying to be the greatest actress in the world,” she says. “That it was kind of an empty goal and I wanted something more. I wanted something that lasted beyond me. I wanted to nurture someone.”

Along with her daughter and husband, Davis has been in New Orleans for just over two months, shooting two new films, Beautiful Creatures and Ender’s Game, simulta?neously. She still makes time to visit the drama classes that her sister, Deloris Grant, teaches at Central Falls High School and to meet with young actors who reach out to her for career advice.

Seated on a barstool at the edge of the home’s spacious kitchen, dressed casually in soft taupe pants and a matching top, the 47-year-old star has a way of putting people around her at ease with just a look. She is unerringly straightforward and open, yet easygoing in a way that makes people feel instantly connected to her.
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Viola Davis with husband Julius Tennon at the 98th Annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., this past April.
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As Gavin Hood, the director of Ender’s Game, points out, “Before a scene or take, she’s serious and quiet and focused. Moments after a scene is complete, she’s relaxed, funny, gregarious and completely down-to-earth.” Those qualities also make her an approachable role model for younger actors.

“I think it’s great to encourage them realistically,” Davis says. “I don’t think that telling people about the obstacles in the road is being cynical. So I give them very honest advice, because I know I wish someone had told me.”