"This person, this human being, this artist did not mistake his presence for the event," said the Best Actress nominee of her Ma Rainey's Black Bottom costar

By Dana Rose Falcone
April 25, 2021 07:45 PM
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Despite being nominated in one of the major categories, Viola Davis felt relaxed heading into Sunday's Academy Awards.

"Calm," the Best Actress nominee, 55, said during the Live from E!: Oscars pre-show of how she felt being on the red carpet ahead of Sunday's ceremony. "Now if people were here, they would know how absolutely groundbreaking calm is!"

Davis, dressed in a white Alexander McQueen gown, called attending the Oscars "an exclamation point on an already fabulous experience."

viola davis
Credit: Chris Pizzello/Pool/Shutterstock

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Nominated for portraying late blues legend Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Davis transformed physically for the role.

"You have to honor the person," she said on Sunday. "They said she was a certain size. They said that she had multiple gold teeth. They said she looked a certain way, she had a horsehair wig. So guess what? I had gold teeth. I had a horsehair wig, and I was a certain size. And that's how I honored her."

RELATED VIDEO: Viola Davis Discusses the Legacy of Chadwick Boseman with Oprah Winfrey

Davis added that she "didn't want to change" Rainey in any way, "because then I would be apologizing and I would be watering it down."

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on the 2021 Oscars. 

The mother of one's late costar Chadwick Boseman earned a posthumous Best Actor nomination for his role in the Netflix drama. When asked by host Giuliana Rancic about how the industry has honored him throughout awards season, Davis said "it feels right."

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
| Credit: David Lee/Netflix

"Only because I know him," she continued. "It's like I said before, he was authenticity on steroids. Sometimes people honor people who actually were not really nice, or the persona did not match the real person. This, it matches the person. I'm telling you: This person, this human being, this artist did not mistake his presence for the event. He absolutely honored the work."

"And a lot of people enter this business because they want to be famous actors. They don't want to be actors, they want to be famous actors," she added. "He entered it because he just wanted to be an artist."

The 93rd Academy Awards are airing live on Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.