In this never-before-heard interview from 2012, Emmy and Tony-award-winning actress, Cicely Tyson explains the surprising story of how she found her calling, shares behind-the-scenes history of her most iconic roles and reveals the biggest life lessons she’s learned. Cicely Tyson passed away on January 28, 2021. She was 96-years-old.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Gas everything from Disney. Why, in the last ragged, is one of the best review movies illegal? It's a vibrant action, fantasy, epic and remarkably original is an instant Disney classic. Let's do this in the last ragged reproduce towards what guided sadistic invaders were ordered on Disney plus it from your access additional few tomorrow.
Eyes did your listeners, its ADI Cornish from and pr consider this a daily newspaper cast where, every week day we bring you the perspective and expertise. You need to understand the world around you and it's more than just information. It's what the news means for you and your community makes sense of today's biggest national and Philly region, news in twenty minutes. The consider this podcast from and pr and W H. Why? Why I'm. Ro Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast. I believe that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present, your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper the round start right now,
Born and raised in Harlem it was Sicily, Thyssen's, iconic beauty that got her noticed, but her talent made her a legend she started out as a fashion model. In the fifties and in nineteen sixty three, she became one of the first black actors to get cast as a reg on a tv series in EAST side, West side, her big break came in nineteen. Seventy two when she starred in sounder that performance earn Sicily an Oscar nomination. Five years later, she was cast as Benda Coup Decanters mother in boots and I've always wanted to set in this room with you. Have a conversation now we're having it in front of lots of people. Here and I always wanted to do that, because when I first started to be able to afford to buy real art, this painting behind this is the first paining real piece of
did that I I purchased and when I saw it, I felt immediately that I had to have at its call to the highest bidder and every time I pass her, just you know many times a day. I always think of you yes I'll, two eyes, I all do you think of you, yeah yeah? What is it about her? It there's something about her. Presence in her strength of character that remain. Some of you and the roles that you ve played and how you brought back to life for us and everything that you have done. particularly in routes in Miss Jane, Pitman and Sounder in all Well. So when I think of her, I call a collar, Miss Sicily, the air. Low, I'm with you all ways you love resolutely and in thrown on the wall- are all names of slaves that I bought from documents from all plantations. So I
keep their names near me. To remain forget yes, lest we forget so you're the first person and only person. I will ever interview in the space you want. introduce or not taking my breath away so we're here celebrating honouring thirty five years of you playing Benda enter It contains mother, possibly yes, I've here and you're. Really Ultimately, you were only in one episode Y ever show I gave birth. You gave birth, I gave birth, it was quite a privilege. what does it mean to you? What did it mean to you then, to get that role? did? You know that it was going to become phenomenon. Did you know when you read the script? feel that something was special about
I knew that I ask well, as millions of others would be introduced to ourselves in a way we had never been introduced ourselves before in terms of who we were what we were why, therefore, on this, I knew that you didn't. I knew that I felt it because I learned things in the reading of the script that I did not know before, and so I knew that I as well as whoever viewed it, was in four ace education in terms of what we were well, when we first see you on screen there, you are giving birth and my Angelo yeah is they're playing your mother, yes
what do you remember about the filming of that seem? Well, when I was giving birth to kinda, I I I don't even remember I was taken over can chew. by something I don't even remember. What I do remember was that I felt a fire on my back.
and I didn't know where that was coming from and it turned out. I found that after that date it was cold and they had these big lamps too, to give warning to those hats, and that was burning. My back and I am allergic to heat the sun and when I was finish, my whole back was swollen from the heat and I hear the lamps of the of the camera crew. That's right! Yes, and I just put that all into the pain that I was having the birth of giving barrier yeah. Well, so how did or did route influenced the roles that you took afterwards? I think you know it so important for us to understand who we are when we came up. Ok,
and that I had the privilege, I've been the mother did your day. Yes, yes, it it made life ass, luck was no more meaningful to me to be able to say tat, innovation after generation after generation. This is a way, When you decided to become an actress, your mother didn't speak to you, for it and she finally came around. She asked me to move. I really am. She said you can't live here and do that. So I But a story that you were working as a secretary yeah and that you stood up in the secretary pull my day.
And said, I know, God did not international day. Is that true? Yes, I did that's a truce, Russia S. I was sitting there tapping why I was working for the American Red Cross and I worked for the vice president of the Organization plus the psychiatrist, who came in to deal with the problem of some people and this woman. Sat there, who was a client and talked about the fact that she had a daughter who was eight years old and that her husband was more or less thing. the daughter and she was afraid to tell anyway, because she didn't to lose his job. Well, when she was finished, I sat there tightening up the case history, and I thought this is not for me.
I said I just push myself away from the desk and I said I know that God didn't put me on the face of this earth to bang on a typewriter for the rest of my life. I know there must be something else for me to do. I don't know what it is, but I'm going to find it, and then I pulled my I have proceeded to finish whatever its typing. Guy knows. I looked up. and they were looking at me. I had lost my mind and I spoke for a moment to so I did, but I knew that there was something else. One negative Was there also an incident where a woman had see twenty watch a gold y- all yes, Missus Johnson. Can you imagine I remember her name where I can tell you that exactly the way that woman look at everything she had on that day, what happened she her dress was next to mine
and she had been there for thirty years- thirty years thirty years, and so they have a little party and they gave her a gold watch, and I said I want to buy my own gold watch. I am not going to be any place for thirty years and have them had me. I've gotta watch, how old were you at the time old enough to know now not to tell you how amazing, how I do find it truly in the word Propria. It amazing that in an incident that a small thing like that become such a huge influence in your life, Does this Johnson's yeah yeah arrive.
anniversary gold watch yes, thirty years of your life now, but it stayed with me- and I tell you- I could see her face clearly as if she was sitting next to me. That's how what an impact in Meda, which is interesting when we none of us, realises and I'm sure you didn't at the time the IMF, Could we have another people now now? Is this supervisor? Yes, I know, that during the filming of roots you were morning, the death of your mother and that you said That actually broke you yeah, bokassa. Her death was quite unexpected, yet I was on a plane, the red eye I was going to New York, ah to gather up some are for
aware to join the dance said, a poem who was being honoured by Queen Elizabeth and so on. I pain had stream. I dreamt I fell in the street and I had my right hand extended bell. When I got to New York, I said to my assistant, Susan Atomic Susan Something's, going on something it's happening, somebody's trying to get it I said to me, and she said what do you mean? I said because I told her the dream: does you ve always
the six handsome young, my mother, had she just passed. So I told her that dream she said. Well, you know I mean I haven't gotten any new side gets. Everything is so I still tortured by the fact that I couldn't I'd get on that plane that, by until I found it what the network, and so I went home and I started getting things together in the following way. It was my sister, I said: how are you she said, not good mother, just past My mother walk out that mining. She called my sister in law and said Bernie some going out my mother and early said, Oh mother, don't talk like that? I'd like to hear you say things at once: waitin to sister come on my family members comes, he said: okay, highway
she did not know that I was on the east coast. I didn't call to tell her. She got dressed in her Sunday. Best walked out the house six feet from my door and she dropped just desired and she had her right exactly well. Well, so I'm the kind of person of where I get these kinds of things I dont ignore them, because it is a message to me: so having that six? In that connection, I would think that you understand, then, also that you know this here it lives on the agriculture they'll question. No caution with me today,
were frightened. You haven't this having this of yes man, my father, I will then its both advantageous, but also on a scary, yeah yeah. I went through a terrible attack, but she said when I was six months. Oh, she was pushing me in a carriage and a woman, stopped her and said take care of that child. She has a sixth sense, he is going to make you very proud one day had she's got it carefully with age. Well. Well, I had forgotten all about it and went when I lost her. I'd just could not adjust. I felt for the first time I uh stood what people who are amputees mean when they say even a limb is God you feel as though it's still there and that's how I felt I felt that it
It's gone. My right arm was gone and yet it was there in. Oh did you use the morning of her, the loss of her the yearning for that in a party I was missing, is as as your character as Benda. You know people ask why I've always been so private enow that I dont discuss my personal life I mean, and I remember being asked that buying into
and I said because it's my personal life that allows me to give you what I do is watch and aid in me as being yes that allows me to give a role what it should have to make it live here. You yeah, ok, and so I mean I think I dont think my my life is so meaningful in the sense that I have to walk around talking about it. Yet every Tom, Dick and Harry it it isn't. It is the life there
I've lived in every. I am in fact the sum total of my whole life experience and of everything. Everything and anything believe me when I say I think that I have profited war from the negative as opposed to the passage real. Yes, because negative experiences. Yes, absolutely I I really relish and treasure them more than positive, because if I have been able to survive it and reach another level that has given me more proof for strength. More confidence has enriched my wife more and that's why I treasure
Everything from Disney. Why, in the last decade, is one of the best review movies illegal? It's a vibrant action, fantasy, epic and remarkably original is an instant Disney classic. Let's do this. In the last ragged, reproduced Wenzel, guided sadistic invaders were ordered on Disney plus from your access additional fuel tomorrow. The year can be a good time for mental health check in if you always wanted to try therapy or you'd like to try it again or if you just need to talk some things our better help offers online licensed professional therapist were trained to listen. help with issues including relationship, conflict, depression, self, esteem, grief and more with better.
Help. You can simply fill out a questionnaire to help assess your specific needs and then get matched with your councillor in under forty eight hours, really schedule secure video or phone sessions plus exchange unlimited messages with your therapist from anywhere everything you shares confidential and, if, for any reason, you're unhappy with their counselor, you can request a new one at any time at no additional charge. Join the one million plus people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of inexperienced, better help, counselor better health. as a convenient and affordable option and our listeners get ten percent off their first month with the disk Our code stature gets started today had better? each e lp dot com, slash stature There's no shame in asking for help. I never think of what people perceive as beaten negative as negative. It hurdle to me it's the most past.
wow cause. You use it as an opportunity to use the opposition press as opportunity. Just think that you have a negative experience. What you think bringing to your knees and it doesn't it doesn't an you survive that strong up your richer, your phone, He was more in touch with what guy wants you to be. Marvelling at what you're saying, as I just heard, tv J suburban TV, Jake's preacher, entire sermon about ass, he called it saving the scraps- and he talked about the in terms of the loves and fishes when guy when Jesus was feeding the multitude and asked disciples to pick up. The baskets scraps and he was saying that you're real power is in the scraps,
perhaps your lightly absolutely and we don't we decried that. Yes, just think you can find their gas. That's the important thing. You survived it as once you have survived it, you another. Never that's right. Have you ve come through that door, So there are certain roles that you with. used to taking your career. You ve said that you did have the luxury of just being an actress. Well, you know my mother just felt very strongly that I was going to live in a den of iniquity, none I want that mean. I go all muddle, I think that when I do when I told my father when I first said I wanted to be an actress, I remember clearly the day and he said no,
oh daughter of mine is going to be lying down on some cast in couch and it was like he ought in the name of it. Yes, yet I regret very good. Yes, I mean that there are things. transportation. Was it yeah? Well, we never will. We were not chosen that went to the movies, never went to move tat. The fact that I am in the business. Source of amazement not only to my family and friends, but to myself, because we were not. given that did our choice on Saturday and were rewarded by go into the normal. Yes, we weren't, so I didn't sit there giving over this correct on the screen to be tat. I never, but she she felt very strongly about that. She told me that they said earlier that I couldn't
Levin her house into that, and so I moved, I found a girlfriend who was my size wore the same size. Clothes had an apartment had a job so that when I had to go out and introduce, I could Bower dress order, has some place to sleep and so on. So then, two years later, I did a play at the. Why and that's the first time I ever stepped on the stage and it was produced by my then teacher. Her name was the net Carroll and she was directing play doc of the moon was the name of it, and so I started. I would ask my mother to come and see him
So she agree, I put her in the center of the third road because I wanted to know where she would be so that I would avoid that area so that, where up her for the moment, I walked onto the stage egg wash it around here, She started talking, I mean talking to her neighbour, but she thinks she's whispering and the whole theatre is here. This woman com and on every move I may ok all right. I got through that. I go back stage, rule makeup and hearing costume I come out. My mother is standing at the door, excepting congratulatory be my yes, I always
ever since she was a little girl. You know she liked to sing and dance. I knew what it this is the woman told me that I could not live in her house? That's the lies. I wanted to them after that She became a little bit more tolerant of my being in the business then, when Sounder opened, I invited her to the opening, I was sitting here she's sitting behind me, she's tapping me on the shoulder to stay and Selo unease sitting behind. Loved infallible and supplement. Something here. but you know it.
What I realise- and this is what I mean when you can take the lemon seven make lemonade, and we had a very very difficult time. My mother- and I And I learned that all the adversity that existed between us, primarily because my dad I'll just like him every time she looked at me, she saw him, and so I became, but what the adversity that existed between the two of us was- and I say that I don't think she left here without realising that she in fact is responsible for what I have become, because that's what
you know, that's that relationship fighting to get and shivered fighting to protect me. I was fighting for my internet handed CS head out and But that is one point we you never know where you are. A source of energy is gonna, come from you just stop and believe me. She was my sauce advantage and I realized at Ashcombe sky so difficult for me to get it together. You made it does linked choice not to take roles that in any way we're going to be detrimental to the character
we lack women like where I merely because I was doing an interview in Philadelphia. It was a press conference and this journalists stood up and admitted that he discovered a bit of bigotry and himself while viewing sounder. That came about because Kevin hopes who paid my oldest son, referred to his father, ass, daddy. And so I asked him whether night he had any children, he said. Yes, I have two sons. What do they call you daddy? He said he could not equate the fact that this little black boy was calling this black man daddy, as is son, gave him. I thought why
I can't say that I was doing an interview in LOS Angeles, and this young lady said to me. it taught me to believe that love existed between black men and women, the likes of which you exhibited in sounder. I said: do you realize what say you're saying that when a human baby- and she said well. I don't know you know. I don't know them. I never lived among them. I never went to school with them I didn't them they're talking to me, I M sorry. guilt lies in your innocence. I said you're going to live
since I cannot accept that you can't live in this society during the civil rights and not know. What's going on with a brace of people, your guilt lies in your innocence, it's hard to believe that it is very difficult to believe. I may. I sometimes think you now. You can't live in this society and not be aware unless you are completely shut off. Funding you can, but you know, at the time people were shot and also for me around My whole life- I was always the only black kid in this- was the first black person to do in this first on the television and so forth, and it Mr part of our lives is just a part of our lives, but for a lot of people, if not through their housekeepers,
They they had no friends, they had no introduction to black people. I think that we will in order to survive in in this society. Have had lowering them. They have never Had to learn Us- and I think that's where the ball scar we had to learn them in order to survive? What did you The lies at the time of route that that was the first time for actually a lot of black people. Fortunately, who did not know the history trade not understand, and certainly most of the white people. That was the first time anybody even had a clue. Yeah yeah yeah because, while is like
the young lady said to me. While I dont know them, I never went to school with them. I didn't even the same neighborhood and so on sulphur. So there was no need right to know why? Yes, ok, but there was a need for us to know who they were in order to protect our house. I think that's what The important thing is to help people in order for you to understand or to have any kind of relationship with them. How else do you get to have a unity among people? If you do, Today's episode is supported by copra. Your best, you is waiting inside well being, is journey, let opera and de facto Preppy your guide. over the past seven years, Oprah Antipater produced over three hundred meditations that will last a lifetime trend. form every aspect of your life with the complete twenty one day: meditation collection from the pioneers and well being for. Amid a time he will also get a year of the chopper app putting it.
Comprehensive guy too well being in the palm of your hand, unlocked Full twenty one day, meditation library now before it goes away forever visit, show for outcome, Slash, Oprah! Instead, Your journey today. the word sitting here, we were Springsteen, it's good to see. My friend is good to see you also. We come from such different places. It turns out. There is a lot of overlap, renegades point and the USA and in spite of my original, had passed from higher ground missing free online Spotify. You are trailblazer, you ve always been a trailblazer, but I think it was ebony that
I'll do the mother of the afro style. You were doing it before it was popular before when you were doing it. People wishing why is she wearing her hair? That way out the lesson? If I were one to have saved these things, I could give you a room full of letters really from people, primarily blacks, black people, who absolutely crucified me for doing what I was told that I was in a position to lift the image of the black woman and I was absolutely destroying it. I willingly imagine the interesting thing is that I was doing more of a Sunday morning. A television show It was on this. Is that you yeah somebody just brought this matter. You know I thought this was,
I thought this was Kimberly aware that way, though, that why would I think he's my daughter? That's why you you were doing that in nineteen out of nowhere wow. That was bold and people thought you you, you were degrading. The re set high and united. This people thought you were dead. Rating, the rest. This came about as a result of the movie see everything that I did have to do with a character that I was playing. this was a movie entitled between yesterday and today, and it was about a couple who, during the transition of Africa to the more a western world, my husband wanted to change. I did not want. I wanted to stay with the old culture and the old customs that was a movie. That's how it was done is entitled
between yesterday and today. Now it was done lie there was a television morning show Sunday, one which up until that might be, for. I was so unhappy about the fact that my here was straighten and long, and I went up to Harlem and I walked into the shallow mob, barbershop Duke Ellington Barbershop, the shallow more love shall I guess I walked into his bob that mob shop and I said to this gentleman who approached me. I want you to cut my hair, you know just cut it, so he sent me down put this smock around me and he started cutting and he cut down
two about him, and so he said: how does that look too. Does that make you happy and they said no? No! No! No! No! You don't understand. I want you to shave, it all off shave it as close to my head, as you can possibly get it and their wash it so that it goes back to its natural state. The man went and sat down. He said to me: are you sure that's what you want, and I said yes, that's exactly what I want so he's. Ok, the next morning I get on set, I have tied up, ok what they do they make up the costume and the directive says: ok, we're ready! I take this scarf or do the people tat so
Finally, the directive walks over to many said: Molly, you cut your hair and I said I didn't say anything I shook my head. He said you know I wanted to ask you to do it, but I didn't have the nerve wound and that Wow so when people were sending you all of that mail saying your degrading, the black woman and you should be lifting us up now. How dare you did you feel that you it had to respond to them. The little that you didn't. I wasn't my problem, but they're not gonna, make it line. I love him. I don't have a high level not at all. Why did you you're like the trailblazer. Did you feel like? Oh? I started that now Absolutely not. It was all in the process of my developing as a human being and making my heritage real true to their be. What is it costs
to have this stared. What are you would and would not play? Has that cost you? I would owner but I'm I made the decision that. When I read the script eyes and my skin tingled on my stomach church, my skin tingle. I knew I had to do it on my stomach turned. Couldn't do it I knew I couldn't do it. I knew that won't ever monetary gain. There was would end up in the psychiatrist. Him. Because I could not live with myself. Having done certain things that I found
What do you mean to me as a woman first and ways of people just couldn't do it? I can't pretty close to doing it. Why tat cause? I wanted desperately to work with this directive And he came to Hollywood and he was going to this be sent me the script I take it home. I opened it. I started to read it At the more I read it, the sick, I became I called him and I said I can't I can't do it. He came to the house, he said. Let's talk about it. What the trigger- and so I said, ok I'll, try again
the whole night, I read the entire script onto a tape, and then I paid it back the next morning and I said I can't die, and that means that it is mainly sick to my story and the thought see you know. If you do play you do it. It's over, but the thought of doing something like this and leaving it on the screen is forever. Ok, somehow monthly. When you look back at your career, you played you know I conic rolled Harriet, Tubman and Jane Pitman, Corredor Skype. Pinta, not just as an actress really, but as a woman in African American.
What do you want your legacy to be bad. I can now. I suppose it's out it's easy to say whatever wet what every it has done to improve the human race. I don't know you don't so interesting. I asked the question because various about your answer. But when I am asked a question, I remember something that my Angelo shared with me when I open a school in Africa. And I said all this: will this will be my legacy and Maya in her a mile away said you don't know what you're legacy will be that the?
did you see, is every life that was ever touched by you yeah every person who ever saw experienced? I heard something that you said. And they were affected by it. But you don't know that. That's what she said. That's why she said. I don't know, that's right, you don't! I got well to ask. What do you now know about love? I'm not going Ask you about your personal life in your marriage, two miles Davis and all that everybody knows that. But what do you now know about? What is it? What is it? Do you know what it is it? What is it? What is love it? I think I do yeah. I think I do hidden
There are so many definitions, given that word it is bandied about more than any of the word I think in the english language. Yes, I don't know that many of us know what it actually guards who love the world that he gave his only be gotten sometime. Ok, that's sculptures! I get to it Do you get as close as no? feeling through nature to church through TAT, God is love well.
When you put it in that context, I think it takes God out of the realm of being, for me, a being sure of being a purse, and we deal with humanity. And we relate to each other in loving ways as human beings and soul. I don't know that I would put it in that context. I know that we are told that it is, and at times we variants, certain emotions in our being that we a tribute to love. What is that love? Is it I dont know
I know when I feel a certain warm coarseness up. On a desire to to give up myself too,. Another human being, as that sound like it ass, I don't know I'm off. I am constantly questioning that myself about them, which is what makes you happy just feels you up brings great joy, makes me happy. I live on the seventeenth floor of a building overlooking central park interesting when I was a little girl going up my mother,
who never allowed us to go out and play with other children would after we finish, our dinner and our choice. She would take us to central park and waited outside the park on these benches and I used to sit there and look at this. hi rises and wonder who lived in those buildings and why we didn't get there. And for the last thirty sunlight, yes, I have lived in that building, and so we I wake up in the morning and I look at the sky. And stylish and the more and that various when I look at the earth and the
Miss Terry, I wonder why she meant that thou art so mind joy. I try to attack. This has been the honor of my life and career to have you sitting here my eyes. Thank you. thank you, I'm over Winfrey and you ve been listening to supersede conversations pod cast. You can follow superficial on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you haven't yet go to apple pod gas and subscribe rate and review this pod cast join me next week for another supersede conversation. Thank you for listening.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-05.