Viola Davis Details Filming in South Africa, Seeing Her Dreams Come True (Exclusive)

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For Viola Davis, getting the chance to embody the powerful and intimidating figure unlike any she's played before, was a dream come true!

The actress walked the red carpet, alongside her husband, Julius Tennon, at the 2023 Palm Springs International Film Awards on Thursday -- where she was honored with the Chairman’s Award -- and she reflected to ET's Denny Directo on when she truly felt that the years of prepping and planning to star in The Woman King had been worth it.

Viola Davis
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Society)

"Well I felt it was worth it when I got on to the soil In South Africa in that red dirt," Davis said, reflecting on her physical transformation and recalling the breathtaking and massive production of the historical epic. "Then, when you see your dream and you see all your hard work come to fruition, and then to present it to the world."

The project was first conceived of in 2015, developed in 2017, and then funded and greenlit in 2020. However, COVID-19 precautions shut down production and delayed filming, endangering the project. However, the team remained diligent to see the production through to completion.

For Davis, it was more than simply another role to play, but a passion, which is why she also served as a producer on the acclaimed epic.

"You know, I’ve had a beautiful career, but autonomy and agency have been elusive to me," Davis shared. "Having control of my work and my voice has been elusive."

Now, with The Woman King -- and the outpouring of support and acclaim that it's generated -- things are changing.

For Tennon, the film was "a fruition of 7 years of hard work" and he was very excited for her to get the chance to do something like it.

"I was proud," he said. "[It gave] Viola to have the opportunity to get the kind of role she wanted to play, to portray, and so it was a beautiful thing, you know? It was awesome."

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