Viola Davis paid tribute to How To Get Away With Murder's producers for casting a "49-year-old dark skinned African-American woman who looks like me" at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.
The 49-year-old actress fought back the tears while giving her acceptance speech for her Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series prize at the ceremony last night, January 25, while appearing to hit back at a critic who had previously claimed she didn't look like "the typical star of a network drama."
Speaking at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, she said: "Alright, when I tell my daughter stories at night, invariably a few things happen.
"Number one, I use my imagination. I always start with life and I build from there.
"And then the other thing that happens... she always says, 'Mommy can you put me in the story?'
"It starts from the top up, so I'd like to thank Paul Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Besty Beers... and Pete Nowalk... for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old dark-skinned African-American woman who looks like me."
Viola—who plays defense lawyer Annalise Keating in the ABC series—appeared to be hitting back at a New York Times critic who previously claimed the show's producers had cast an actress who was "less classically beautiful" than someone like Kerry Washington or Halle Berry.
The piece, which was published in September last year, read: "As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn't look at all like the typical star of a network drama.
"Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series Extant."