‘That’s My Legacy’: Viola Davis Describes Forgiving Her Father After Years of Watching His Abuse of Her Mother

Actress Viola Davis has a new memoir hitting bookshelves soon, and in it the 56-year-old actress spoke candidly about her childhood and family life growing up in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

In her memoir, “Finding Me,” Davis described growing up in a community where she was bullied for being Black, including having rocks thrown at her by neighborhood boys. The Academy Award-winning actress also described forgiving her father after watching him beat her mother for years.

APRIL 14, 2022 — Viola Davis attends the premiere of “The First Lady” at the DGA Theater Complex in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: @violadavis / Instagram)

Davis told People Magazine that her father regularly beat up her mother, and Davis also experienced some of the same treatment from her father before he left the family when Davis was in the second grade. Her mother, Mae Alice, forgave her husband before he passed away in 2006 of pancreatic cancer, and Davis was also able to forgive him before his passing.

“My dad changed,” Davis explains. “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,” she explained.

She went on to say she wanted to love her father and noted her father loved her, and she chose to accept his love rather than live with the burden of the past, which she said has given her “an extraordinary sense of compassion.”

“I wanted to love my dad. 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.”

In addition to her new memoir, Davis will star as former first lady Michelle Obama in the Showtime movie, “The First Lady” on April 17. Her memoir “Finding Me” will be available in bookstores on April 26.


Back to top