'It's been freeing. It's given me a renewal of hope for the future,' she tells EW

In 2015, Viola Davis made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, cinching the award for her bold turn as How To Get Away With Murder‘s Annalise Keating. Now up for a second shot at the golden statuette during the 2016 ceremony, Davis is revealing how the part has empowered her career beyond all the accolades and acclaim.

“It’s changed me as an actress in a lot of ways, playing Annalise,” she tells EW. “One of the things that’s changed is that I no longer apologize for my work.”

Her portrayal has been hailed as “magnetic,” “intimidating,” and “powerfully layered,” but it’s the character, Davis says, that has ignited her performance.

“I have had issues in the past with the characters and the limitations of the characters and the structure of the narratives given to me as a woman of color,” she says. “All of those things are not the case with Annalise. There are no boundaries. There are no limitations. And what it’s done for me [is that] it’s been freeing. It’s given me a renewal of hope for the future.”

The 68th Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air Sept. 18 on ABC. Watch Davis’ interview with EW in the video above.

— Additional reporting by Robyn Ross

Episode Recaps

How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis stars as a law professor where she teaches, wait for it, how to get away with murder.

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