This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com
Viola Davis grew up a long way from Hollywood, in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and she was born even further away from the world of showbiz – on a former plantation in South Carolina.
In a sit-down with Jess Cagle, editorial director of PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly, Davis recounted her short time living on her grandmother’s farm, which was on Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina.
“I wasn’t on it long, because I was the fifth child, and so we moved soon after I was born,” she said during the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview. “I mean, I went back to visit briefly but still not aware of the history. I think I read one slave narrative of someone who was on that plantation which was horrific. 160 acres of land, and my grandfather was a sharecropper. Most of my uncles and cousins, they’re farmers. That’s the choice that they had. My grandmother’s house was a one room shack. I have a picture of it on my phone because I think it’s a beautiful picture.”
For much more on Viola Davis, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. Plus, watch more Jess Cagle Interviews at people.com/jesscagle.
Davis also recalled her relatives’ bare-bones living conditions and how they found joy in the simple things.
“[There was] no running water. No bathroom. It’s just an outhouse,” she said. “But my mom says that the day I was born, all of my aunts and uncles were in the house, she said, everyone was drinking and laughing, and having fun. She said she ate a sardine, mustard, onion, tomato sandwich after I was born.
“I love that story,” Davis continued. “It’s a great story to me. It’s a great story of celebration in the midst of what you would feel is a decimated environment, but you could see the joy and the life that can come out of that, because it’s not always about things, you know.”