Viola Davis won the outstanding lead drama actress prize at Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards for her role in How to Get Away With Murder. Davis is just the third actress of color to nab the title.
Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy won the award in 2005, followed by Chandra Wilson in 2006, who won for the same show. Those two victories, along with Davis’, were all for series produced by Shonda Rhimes.
The award for outstanding comedy actress also went to an African American performer. Uzo Aduba won her first-ever SAG award for her work on Orange Is the New Black at the Jan. 25 ceremony, marking the first year both winning lead actresses were African American.
Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera won for lead actress in a comedy series in 2006, and was the first Latina to score the prize.
The SAG Awards suggest that Hollywood is moving in the right direction (especially after not one actor of color was nominated for the upcoming Academy Awards), but Davis tells Variety that there is still much progress to be made.
“It starts with the casting. It starts with the narratives. The narratives have got to be inclusive,” Davis said on the red carpet, moments before her big win. “We’re in the 21st century now. People are multicultural now. We know more now about the world and what the world looks like, and it’s got to be reflected in the scripts.”
As for being recognized by her peers, Davis said: “The acknowledgement of your work is great. You always want to feel like you’re affecting people and it’s great that you’re affecting just the masses, but to affect people who really know the process, too, it’s why we do what we do.”