BLACK ICON DIAHANN CARROLL: REST IN POWER

Written by on October 17, 2019

Story by Chuck Tackett

BLACK ICON DIAHANN CARROLL: REST IN POWER

“I wanted to be the first Black bitch on television.”

Diahann Carroll

An interview on her first day on the set of “Dynasty.”

“Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats. She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll.”

Ava DuVernay

Director/Filmmaker

“The champagne won’t be burnt in Heaven. RIP Diahann Carroll.”

Johnathan Capeheart

Journalist and TV personality

My earliest memory of the late actress Diahann Carroll was when I was a preteen. She was starring in the groundbreaking television series, “Julia.” The show lasted from 1968 to 1971. 

“Julia”, “Dark Shadows,” and “The Carol Burnett Show” were the Holy Trinity of television shows that I just couldn’t miss.

For those of you who are not familiar with the television series, “Julia”, it starred Diahann Carroll as Julia Baker. Ms.Baker was depicted as a widow whose husband was killed in the Vietnam War. She was left with a little boy to raise. Her character was a nurse by profession. What was so groundbreaking for this show was that it was the first time a Black woman was depicted in a non-stereotypical role. Being a preteen in the 1960s was quite contrastive than being a preteen in 2019. I had no idea this was a historical and groundbreaking television show. That would have been “grown folk’s business.” Conversation for adults. Even if it wasn’t, that fact would not be so unusual to me. The women on my mother’s side of the family were school teachers with careers of their own.

In the mid to late 1980s, Diahann Carroll followed her tradition of Black women being cast in non-stereotypical roles, when Director Aaron Spelling cast her as television’s first Black bitch, the wealthy Dominique Devereaux, in the TV series, “Dynasty.” She was constantly wrecking the nerves and throwing fists at Joan Collin’s rich bitch character, “Alexis Carrington.” It was that role in “Dynasty” when I realized the significance of the character Julia Baker, and now Dominique Devereaux was.

Soon after the show “Dynasty” expired in 1987, Ms. Carroll teamed up with singer and actress Patti Labelle to play the role of Marion Gilbert, the mother of Whitley Gilbert, played by Jasmine Guy. Patti Labelle played the character of Adelle Wayne, the son of Dwayne Wayne, played by actor Kadeem Hardison. The television show was “A Different World”, a spin-off from “The Cosby Show.”

After “A Different World” ended its run in 1993, I didn’t see much of Diahann Carroll. I thought maybe she retired from acting. In 2006, she appeared on the extremely popular Shonda Rimes television series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Ms. Carroll portrayed Jane Burke, the mother of the character Dr. Preston Burke, and in 2013 at The Emmy’s, she was on stage with actress Kerry Washington, who played Olivia Pope on “Scandal.”

Ms. Carroll passed away on October 4th, 2019, from breast cancer. It was reported she was stunned by the news when she was first diagnosed in 1997. Breast cancer was not in her family history and she led a very healthy lifestyle.

Chuck’s Chat operates under an open authority. Opinions and comments are always welcome. Send them to soultraindancing@yahoo.com


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