The Help actress won the Best Supporting Actress award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for her role in Fences, about a working-class African-American family living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

In her heartfelt acceptance speech, Viola recalled her late father's last moments to help her pay tribute to the late August Wilson, who wrote the Fences play and screen adaptation.

“You know, my father groomed horses at the racetrack and he had a fifth-grade education and he was a janitor towards the end of his life when he died of cancer at a MCDonald's and the reason why I say that is when he took his last breath, one of the most devastating things that went through my mind is, ‘Did his life matter?’

"August answers that question so brilliantly because what he did is he said that our lives mattered as African-Americans: the horse groomer, the sanitation worker, the people who grew up under the heavy boot of Jim Crow (racial segregation)."

She added that stories about African-Americans shouldn't be limited to figures who made it into history books because the ordinary people "have a story, and those stories deserve to be told.”

When asked about her speech backstage at London's Royal Albert Hall, Viola explained that she doesn't see why everyday African-American stories are deemed "not worthy" of the big screen treatment.

"There are times when I want to tell people the fact that I'm just a living, breathing person, I'm a woman, I'm sexual, I'm joyful, I'm funny, I'm tragic, I'm all of those things. That in and of itself should be worthy," she told reporters.