Losing an icon like Diahann Carroll is a tough pill to swallow. She’s had a long and illustrious life that’s gifted the world with the first glimpse of a Black woman on a dramatic television series and the first time a Black woman won a Golden Globe. But when she played Dominique Deveraux on Dynasty, Carroll was the first time the world experienced a Black woman portraying her infamous “Black b*tch” — a role she wanted as part of her legacy because, as she once said, “I think very often, particularly minorities, it’s almost required of them, that they are nice people and I don’t want to play a nice person.”
Carroll represented the freedom of a Black woman. She was grace, style, poise and a pioneer for every Black woman wishing to grace a screen, big or small. Carroll was the prototype.
“She had such a vision for herself,” Jill Scott began, while on the red carpet at The Tyler Perry Studios grand opening in Atlanta. “She was like, ‘I’m not going to play what you think I should. I’m going to play b*tches, I’m going to play strong women that don’t have money too.” Sadly, Carroll passed away after her battle with cancer one day ahead of Tyler Perry dedicating one of his soundstages to the legendary actress.
The praise Carroll receives as a trailblazer in entertainment is never ending. Black actors have a reverence for this queen and always have. So, because we were surrounded by every piece of Black excellence that ever excelled at Tyler Perry Studios’ grand opening, we asked them to share their memories of the incredible Diahann Carroll.
Many of the actors at the event got the privilege to work alongside her, like Loretta Devine, Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Lawson. But there were also those from later generations who received the gift of her creating a path in Hollywood. These actors realize the divine shoulders they stand on.
“Diahann Carroll is someone who truly paved the way for all of us to literally stand here and be here. It’s because of women like her, that’s been this great legacy that she’s been our whole lives that allow me to stand here today, at Tyler Perry Studios in such a grand way,” Tyler Perry’s The Oval actress, Taja V. Jackson shared with ESSENCE.
“She was the beautiful flower in front,” Loretta Devine shared while remembering her friend. “She was happy about us doing so well,” Devine said of seeing more Black people on-screen these days than she’s ever seen in her career.
Check out the video above to see what a few of your faves like Whoopi Goldberg, Tina Knowles Lawson, Jenifer Lewis and Halle Berry and more have to say about the life of Diahann Carroll.