Viola Davis breaks her own record and makes history with Best Actress Oscar nomination

By Zach Harper

Viola Davis is up for a Best Actress Oscar for her work in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, in which she plays legendary blues singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, who influenced the creation of rock and roll along with jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong.

It's her fourth time being up for an Academy Award, and with the honour, she again becomes the most nominated Black actress of all time. She broke her own record with the nod, which she set in 2017 when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Fences and won that award.

She's one of only eight Black stars, including the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Octavia Spencer, Lupita Nyong'o, Regina King and Jennifer Hudson, who have won Best Supporting Actress.

"Absolutely thrilled!! Congratulations to the whole @MaRaineyFilm team!" Viola wrote on Instagram after her Best Actress nomination and the four others the film picked up. "Deserved!"

If Viola wins Best Actress this year, she will become just the second Black woman to take that award. Halle Berry previously won it for Monster's Ball in 2002. Last year, Halle spoke about her Oscar win and how she has been saddened not to see other Black women win the award since.

Halle Berry reacts to winning the Best Actress Oscar in 2002. Photo: © TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

"I wanted to believe it was so much bigger than me. It felt so much bigger than me, mainly because I knew others should have been there before me and they weren't," she told Variety.

In addition to Viola's nominations for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Fences, she was also up for Best Supporting Actress for Doubt in 2008 and Best Actress for The Help three years later.

Viola and Chadwick (left) have been recognized for their performances in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom throughout awards season. Photo: © David Lee/Netflix

Viola's late co-star, Chadwick Boseman, received a Best Actor nomination for his work on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Only four Black men have won Best Actor in Oscars history: Sidney Poitier (1963), Denzel Washington (2001), Jamie Foxx (2004) and Forest Whitaker (2006).

Chadwick, who passed away last year at age 43 after a battle with cancer, looks to be the frontrunner as he has posthumously picked up many awards for his performance in that film during awards season already. He's taken a Golden Globe Award and a Critics' Choice Award for the role, and is also up for two Screen Actors Guild Awards and a BAFTA for it as well.

The Academy Awards will be handed out in a ceremony broadcast on ABC at 8 p.m. ET on April 25.

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