Viola Davis Felt Like She ‘Made It’ Starring On ‘NYPD Blue’

For many television viewers, NYPD Blue is the gold standard of police procedural dramas. The series went off the air fifteen years ago, but it helped pave the way for many shows that are currently in syndication, and it remains hugely popular with fans — many of whom weren’t even alive when the show first debuted on television. One high-profile fan of the show is the award-winning actor Viola Davis, who actually made a guest appearance on the show during one of the early seasons. In an interview given after she became an established Hollywood star, Davis opened up about how it felt to land a coveted role on the influential television series. 

Viola Davis smiling in front of hedges
Viola Davis | Rachel Murray/Getty Images

‘NYPD Blue’ was a very influential police procedural drama

NYPD Blue premiered on television in 1993 and changed the game from the start. The show, set in Manhattan and following a group of dedicated fictional detectives, was gritty in a way that no other police procedural drama had been up until that point. The series never shied away from detailing disturbing subject matter and is considered to be groundbreaking in the way that it showed nudity and violence.

One of the longest-running shows on primetime television, NYPD Blue ran from 1993 until 2005, before taking its final bow. Many of the cast members, including stars like Jimmy Smits, remain best known for their work in the series. Still, some guest stars who had only minor roles or bit parts in NYPD Blue would go on to achieve fame on their own terms, for other projects. One of these stars is Viola Davis, who made an appearance on NYPD Blue in 1996. 

How did Viola Davis get into acting?

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Viola Davis was born in South Carolina in 1965, according to IMDb. Raised in poverty, Davis was determined to make a better way for herself in the world and discovered her love of acting at an early age. After she graduated from high school, Davis began attending Rhode Island College, majoring in theater, ultimately graduating in 1988. Davis went on to attend the prestigious Juilliard School for four years.

In the early nineties, Davis worked on stage, appearing in several Broadway productions. Her first film appearance was in the 1996 movie The Substance of Fire. Although her role was a small one, it earned Davis her Screen Actors Guild Card. It was also that year that Davis made her first television appearance — in the hit drama NYPD Blue, no less. 

What did Viola Davis say about appearing in ‘NYPD Blue’?

Although Viola Davis’ role in the episode of NYPD Blue was brief, it made an impression — and not long after, the talented performer was racking up parts in both television and film projects. These days, Davis is one of the most decorated actors in Hollywood, with an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards to her credit. Still, she has never forgotten her start, and in a 2017 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Davis was shown the clip of her work in the 1996 episode of NYPD Blue. After joking about the wig she wore in the scene, Davis said that she remembered that time clearly because she really felt as though she had “made it” when she was cast on a show as successful as NYPD Blue

Davis and one of her NYPD Blue co-stars got the chance to work together again in 2017, when Jimmy Smits, who starred on the police procedural drama for many years, landed a recurring role on Davis’s own hit show, How to Get Away With Murder. There’s no doubt that the two co-stars shared many memories behind the scenes, reminiscing about their years in television.