Diahann Carroll, the groundbreaking actress who starred in Dynasty and Julia, has died at age 84. She was one of the first black actresses to have a major role on television.
Carroll’s daughter Suzanne Kay confirmed that her mother died at home in Los Angeles following a long battle with cancer, Variety reports.
“Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats,” filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted. “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.”
An Academy Award for Best Actress nominee (for 1974’s Claudine) and the first black actress to win a Tony Award for Best Actress (for the musical No Strings in 1962), Carroll is best known for her trailblazing role as a single mother in the sitcom Julia; she was the first black actress in a non-stereotypical role to lead a network series. Julia ran for three seasons from 1968 to 1971; following its debut season, Carroll earned a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
During a career that spanned seven decades, Carroll also appeared in films like 1954’s Carmen Jones, 1974’s Claudine (earning her a Best Actress Oscar nomination) and 1997’s Eve’s Bayou, as well as roles in TV series like A Different World, White Collar, Grey’s Anatomy and Dynasty, in which Carroll played the diva Dominique Deveraux in a reoccurring role.
Carroll told People magazine in 1984 of her Dynasty role, which marked her career comeback after retiring from acting in the late Seventies: “They’ve done everything [on the show]. They’ve done incest, homosexuality, murder. I think they’re slowly inching their way toward interracial. I want to be wealthy and ruthless… I want to be the first black bitch on television.”
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“The power and impact of Diahann Carroll is immeasurable,” Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “As the first, she escorted the TV drama into the 20th century. Her Julia Baker is queen mother to Olivia Pope’s existence. Her Dominque Devereux is fairy godmother to Olivia’s fierce style. Because of her, I could. Writing her as Preston Burke’s mother was the honor of a lifetime. Knowing her was everything. A hero has gone to glory.”
A trailblazing actress with a captivating voice, Diahann Carroll lent her talents to films like "Carmen Jones" and "Porgy and Bess." In 1975, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role in “Claudine.” Her legacy lives on. pic.twitter.com/2X2xjl4sBj
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) October 4, 2019