Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating--a defense lawyer and criminal law professor at the fictional Middleton University. Annalise Keating is perfect, beautiful, brilliant, hardnosed, unorthodox, and somewhat humorless. She is also engaged in a possibly shady affair with a detective in the local police department, despite the fact that she is married to a psychology professor at the university (who may be embroiled in the murder of a student that he was possibly having an affair with).
She is dynamic and interesting, but there is some truth to the accusations that she is somewhat of an archetype. The archetype of the highly sexual African American woman who is tough-minded and devoid of humor. These are character traits that are often associated with black women in movies and television--they are either highly sexual and humorless or seemingly asexual and humorless. Yet Viola Davis, as Annalise Keating, brilliantly brings out the characters vulnerability and inner turmoil. Annalise Keating IS somewhat of an archetype, but she is also a perfectly flawed and immensely human character.