Viola Davis treated her best friend of 31 years to a complete home renovation on Monday’s episode of Celebrity IOU.
But unlike other the other celebrities, she didn’t lie and keep her pal completely in the dark. Instead, she delighted in telling her about it from the start.
‘What is happening?’ cried Michelle O’Neill, when she saw her ‘sister from another mister,’ Viola, 54, walk into her Minneapolis home with designers Drew and Jonathan Scott, both 41.
Oscar winner: Viola Davis treated her best friend of 31 years to a complete home renovation on Monday’s episode of Celebrity IOU
Shaking and near tears, Michelle listened as the Oscar-winning actress confessed that she’d been wanting to do something on a ‘big scale’ for her pal, who constantly did things for others.
For five weeks, Michelle and her family would be staying in a furnished rental nearby as the team worked, though she would have no idea what they were doing to her place.
‘Stuff like this doesn’t happen!’ Michelle said, surrendering to the process and having complete faith in her old pal. ‘It’s great! I love her!’
‘She’s one of those people who’s always giving, giving, giving,’ Viola said of Michelle in a confessional. ‘I understand the givers in the world, I really do. But every once in a while, the givers can be exhausted and drained, and need to be reminded that they are people, too.’
Big hug: Michelle O’Neil hugged her longtime friend Viola upon seeing the renovation
Property siblings: Michelle and Viola talked to Drew and Jonathan Scott who took on the five-week project
Viola and Michelle had met as acting students at Juilliard in their twenties, and ended up rooming together in a tough part of Brooklyn, which only cemented their bond further.
They’d done a lot of theatre together then, but as Viola’s film career grew, Michelle moved to Minneapolis to raise her two kids, following in the footsteps of other family-minded actors.
‘Through all of that we stayed connected,’ Michelle affirmed. ‘I feel like she knows who I am.’
Close bond: Viola and Michelle had met as acting students at Juilliard in their twenties, and ended up rooming together in a tough part of Brooklyn, which only cemented their bond further
When Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, Viola was the first person she called, she said, adding, ‘I feel incredibly lucky that I have somebody in my life like that.’
The feeling was mutual. ‘She’s helped me through some bad relationships,’ Viola considered. ‘She’s helped me when I’ve been stuck in life. She’s helped me in a way when I never had anyone to talk to.’
Viola told the Scotts that the remodel of Michelle’s home would have to focus on her love for friends and family, emphasizing that she liked to cook, host parties and hang out with her kids.
Best friends: When Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, Viola was the first person she called, she said, adding, ‘I feel incredibly lucky that I have somebody in my life like that’
The before: The Minneapolis home was transformed to add more light
Old kitchen: The kitchen was renovated to better fit Michelle’s style
The designers planned to open up Michelle’s living room, brighten it with new oak floors, add built-in shelving for her records, install a new fireplace and enlarge her entertainment area.
They also wanted to knock down the wall between her living room and kitchen, introduce a lengthy peninsula for dining, and bring in state-of-the-art appliances and huge cabinets.
The idea was to fashion an ‘oasis’ for Michelle, with Viola offering that she’d like to see ‘something that reflects how diverse her cooking is’ with a kitchen that is just a ‘playground for her.’
Celebrity helpers: Drew and Jonathan help celebrities express their gratitude with renovations on the HGTV show
After the demo was over, the designers replaced Michelle’s insulation, installed new windows, upgraded the electrical and gas lines, and covered popcorn ceilings with sleeker drywall.
At one point, they were even called on to shore up the home’s foundation, as they needed to better support a 600-pound beam that was being added underneath the renovated rooms.
Viola helped the Scotts pick out new flooring, and chose the kitchen cabinets and accents, personally assisting when they created a Zen workspace for Michelle in a third room.
Demolition time: Viola helped out with the demolition portion of the renovation
Helpful ideas: The actress shared her ideas with the brothers on what would work for her pal
Record collection: Michelle had an extensive record collection
As a final grace note, the brothers chose a record player and other furnishings for Michelle’s office at Minneapolis’ Electric Fetus records, a store beloved by the late singer Prince.
On reveal day, Viola helped hang art around the home that would lend it an especially ‘airy’ feeling, and the entire team moved flowers and furnishing into place.
‘She is going to have a fit,’ Viola told the Scotts. ‘I cannot wait.’
Record store: Drew and Jonathan went to Electric Fetus records to shop for items for Michelle’s office
The actress asked to be allowed to show Michelle through the space before her family saw it.
‘Michelle,’ she told her friend when she arrived. ‘I’m very emotional. ‘Cause this is for you. This is something for you, ’cause I never think you do enough for yourself.’
Viola led Michelle up the stairs, asking her to keep her eyes closed. When they entered the living room, Michelle opened them, looked around, and jumped wordlessly into Viola’s arms.
The moment: Viola led Michelle up the stairs, asking her to keep her eyes closed
‘You knocked it out of the park,’ she told her later, after ‘Vi’ had given her a room-by-room tour, saying she was already imagining what it would be like to have coffee in her new space.
The Scotts had even etched the name of Michelle’s late, beloved professor Kenneth Washington on a record player in one room, as a nod to the fact that it came from him.
Seeing it, Michelle cried, and she cried more when she saw her new office, complete with photos of her family and a shadowbox with baby shoes inside it.
The after: The living room opened up into a dining area and the kitchen
Modern kitchen: The kitchen was completely renovated with a new stove and oven and counters
Nice touch: The Scotts had even etched the name of Michelle’s late, beloved professor Kenneth Washington on a record player in one room, as a nod to the fact that it came from him
New office: Michelle cried more when she saw her new office, complete with photos of her family and a shadowbox with baby shoes inside it
‘It’s beautiful,’ she marveled. ‘It’s so filled with life. Filled with my life, and the people I love.’
‘It’s just very powerful to see it in front of you and know you’ve got a lot of people in your life that love you,’ she noted. ‘And you got a good life.’
As the show closed, Michelle’s husband Mark, daughters Ella and Tess, and other relatives flooded in, with Viola’s husband Julius Tennon, 66, and daughter Genesis, eight, hot on their heels.
Everyone shared pizza in the new kitchen as Viola toasted to ‘another 31 years’ of friendship.
Celebrity IOU returns next week on HGTV.
Good times: As the show closed, Michelle’s husband Mark, daughters Ella and Tess, and other relatives flooded in, with Viola’s husband Julius Tennon, 66, and daughter Genesis, eight, hot on their heels for a pizza party in the new kitchen