Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson is dead at age 96. Her representatives reported the news that Tyson died on January 28. She received many awards and honors during her career across film, television and Broadway, especially in later years.
Tyson was a nominee at the Academy Awards for Best Actress in the 1972 film “Sounder” and received an Honorary Oscar in 2018. She was a 16-time Emmy nominee and three-time winner for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.” She was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2020. She won a Tony Award for “The Trip to Bountiful” in 2013 and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Gold Derby interviewed Tyson just this past summer about her fifth Emmy nomination for her guest starring role on “How to Get Away with Murder.” She played Ophelia Harkness, the mother of Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) on the ABC legal drama series. Listen to the audio podcast below. Click here to read the full transcript.
Here is one of Tyson’s responses from our interview a few months ago:
GD: Last year you won an Honorary Oscar and you were later inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. What do honors like this mean to you and what would an Emmy nomination mean for this final season of “Murder”?
CT: Well, I have to tell you how I feel about awards. I think it was maybe the first time I was nominated for something and I didn’t get it and I came home a little downtrodden, so when I walked in the house, my mother said, “What’s the matter with you?” I said, “Nothing.” And I went into my room and I closed the door. She waited for a good 10, 15 minutes and she didn’t knock on the door, she just opened the door and she looked at me, I was sitting on the edge of the bed and she said, “What’s the matter with you?” I said, “Nothing.” “You’re telling me nothing? Look at your face. Get up and come outside.” I went outside to sit down. “I didn’t get the role.” “And that’s what has you looking like this,” she said. “I didn’t get it.” She said, “Let me tell you something. This is your choice, this show business, whatever it is that you call it. That’s your choice. You chose it, and one of the things you had better learn right now is that what is for you, you will get it. What is not for you, you will never get it, okay? So when you go to get something and it don’t come for you, then it’s not yours. Something else will come along that is for you, okay?” And I’m sitting there looking at her and I’m saying, “This woman is crazy.” Here I am aching because I lost this role and she’s telling me that it wasn’t mine.
Well, about two years later I was asked to do a film and after I read it, I realized that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. It was about a woman who was single and had five children each for a different male, and I simply said, “That’s not the kind of woman that I want to project,” and I passed on it. Now, the head of 20th Century Fox came to me and said, “Why did you do that? That’s a fabulous role. Probably would’ve gotten nominated for this.” I said, “It’s not the kind of woman that I want to project.” They tried to talk to me and talk me into reconsidering. The woman who wrote it said to me, “Well, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that.” She said there are women like that. I said, “I know that.” And it was her maid that she was writing about. I said, “I know. But then there are doctors and lawyers and physicists. We have those too, and those are the kind of women that I would like people to be aware of.” So they finally resolve themselves to the fact that I was not gonna do it and it was fine. Two weeks after I turned it down, I got “Jane Pittman.” What’s for you will come to you. What is not for you will never come to you. And I tell you, I never forgot that. Whenever I went out for a job and I didn’t get it, I said, “Well, it wasn’t for me.” I could shrug it off very easily. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t for me. And that’s what kept me strong, because there’s always something there that’s gonna be yours.
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