Viola Davis' Story

How Viola Davis' humble beginnings led to an Oscar nod -- and a baby girl.
6:43 | 02/08/12

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Transcript for Viola Davis' Story
She's already won two Tonys and the Screen Actors Guild award and now by -- Davis. Has become the only black actors besides Whoopi -- work. To be nominated for an Oscar more than once first for her role opposite Meryl Streep in doubt she's walked away with the movie in one scene. And now for the enormously successful film the help. She's funny she's warm and as my co anchor Cynthia McFadden found -- she's serious about making a difference in the world here's our series. Oscar confidential. And Diane -- coming here please. The decision to play Abilene -- made in 1960s. Jim Crow era Mississippi. Was not an easy one for Viola Davis. You think it was safe out. Lord have mercy when their hold on this -- her new film help resonates deeply. Playing the part of the domestic. -- -- -- that a complex history. This -- also -- choice script floating around there for me. If you look at what has been out there in the last few years -- even this past year for women of color. -- -- this is basically it too often playing a domestic has been all that's available for black actresses. Mike Hanna this completely different from Merrill Streep or Michelle Williams or even -- Rooney Mara. -- Glenn Close and not that they had it easy because they're women but. I. Do not sit. With 1015 scripts in front of me all lead roles and I just kind of say he meaning mining mall that's just not been my my options. The option she took her sensitive portrayal of Abilene has already won Davis some big time Hollywood accolades and Academy Award nomination. -- -- In this best -- The issue -- sag award. I have a special special note to the kids in central falls Rhode Island to dream big. And -- fierce. -- Davis knows all about big dreams. She grew up dirt border town where she often felt the ugly sting of racism. And was taunted with the word no child should ever he. Moved to central falls and in 1965. And we were the only black family. So what's so I was bullied. No -- want to drink for. You know from the water fountain have to mean I always counted nine boys -- we chase me every day at school and they would pick up sticks and bricks literally. And call me new. And you you know. And just -- and just angry the shy little girl went to her feet on the ground and fought for herself. She was voted most talented and high school and ultimately won a coveted space at Juilliard. Now it's 46 she's got a big career. Happy marriage and a nearly two old baby girl and -- Now if she saw this -- right here. -- -- -- -- -- Use this shopping trip to a -- West Hollywood baby store but is far from her own early life. As you can get I love my family. I'm very close with my family but pop that he tells us continue. It seeps into your spirit and your mind it's almost it's a mentality. They can it it can get the best of you can almost strangle -- -- members. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- God if you if you really loved me he would take you -- you know what opened my eyes and I would still be. In my house -- -- but no phone. And electricity cut off for whenever. But now at forty Phoenix. Now it's like -- can really seen that everything that I've been doing my entire life. Has built my character in a way that's made me appreciate everything in my life. And gives it the courage to tackle big issues like the lack of dynamic complex pools for -- women. And I am -- Patti McDaniel was the first black woman to win an Academy Awards and -- and gone with the win. And 72 years later six black actresses have been nominated. For playing -- Black women are nominated for an Academy Award for playing made. -- -- -- -- -- Sometimes you have to make hard decisions. And the decision that I made after reading the book which I really really -- Is that I knew that when I was given this rule of enabling that I can humanize her. And I felt as did Octavia as did -- Tyson -- -- onto Ellis. That we can infuse these characters with humanity that they could be more than just aprons. And -- kind of blink one dimensional stereo type so why aren't there are so few options depressed just. -- prejudice is too simplistic of terms it's not just a problem with Caucasian people because it's now okay. White people the -- -- this negative images. A lot of time to 99% of the scripts I have -- home they're young. Up and coming black writers who come to me and say this status the story for you you know because -- really see you. And almost all of them urban mothers who crack addicted. And that coming from black people you know. Davis hopes the success of the movie which is most Eagles are a 169. Million dollars. We'll help end loopholes available for black actresses. Moving me a lot of -- And all of a sudden we've been brought to perform from -- a lot not you have something to work with -- Hollywood can we get something done. That's how it works in this business which brings us back to Abilene. Police. Thanks mom. Yeah days in the pool in. Wouldn't she teach you that -- bigger than your circumstances. Who you are in society is bigger than your circumstances. -- always a space inside of you. That is all you and yours your dreams and your hopes and alone. A lesson but it -- Davis and surely -- the rest of them for Nightline I'm Cynthia McFadden.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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