Viola Davis has written a new memoir, Finding Me, in which she recounts her difficult childhood and eventual success in Hollywood.
In an excerpt shared by USA Today, the Oscar-winning actress recounts how a conversation with “Suicide Squad” co-star Will Smith gave her a whole new perspective on some trauma she’d been dealing with for decades.
As Davis writes, she and Smith were chatting on the set when Smith asked, “Viola, who are you?”
Smith then explained how he saw himself. “Look, I’m always going to be that 15-year-old boy whose girlfriend broke up with him,” he explained. “That’s always going to be me. So, who are you?”
That forced Davis to ask herself that question, and the answer proved to be difficult, leading her back to a painful anecdote from her childhood. “Eight or nine white boys in my class made it their daily, end-of-school ritual to chase me like dogs hunting prey,” she shared, revealing that along with racist slurs they would also throw rocks and bricks at her.
“There I was, a working actress with steady gigs, Broadway credits, multiple industry awards, and a reputation of bringing professionalism and excellence to any project,” she wrote. “Hell, Oprah knew who I was. Yet, sitting there conversing with Will Smith, I was still that little, terrified, third-grade Black girl.”
Finding Me is available now.