*CIcely Tyson is one heck of a legend! And there’s a strong possibility the next awards season will recognize her for just that (hello, Emmys!).
The 80-year-old acclaimed actress talked with theGrio‘s Chris Witherspoon about reprising her lauded role in the TV version of “The Trip to Bountiful.”
Not only that, she got quite emotional discussing the legacy of groundbreaking, historical black films and its impact on the black diaspora.
Tyson is no stranger to TV. In fact, her iconic work extends across TV, film and theatre. She’s known for her TV roles as Kunta Kinte’s mother in “Roots” and Miss Jane Pittman — a southern black woman who lived through slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”
Also, she’s known for her Academy Award nominated role as a sharecropping wife and mother in “Sounder.”
She discussed the impact of her roles and taking part in cinematic black history.
“There’s no question that Roots sort of put a needle in everybody,” Tyson said. “Anywhere I go in the world people will look at me and say ‘Roots.’ It stimulated an interest in their history. Secondly I think… I’m sorry…I can’t [talk about it] because I get choked up.”
And she acknowledged the impact her groundbreaking films of the past and today’s films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “12 Years a Slave” have on black youth.
“The one thing that I appreciate about what has happened in the past few years is the fact that each one of those major films, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave and Mandela, suddenly to me became history lessons for our youth,” she said.
Tyson goes on to talk about how it’s the black community’s job to teach black youth about their history.
“They are not taught our history in school and if we don’t teach them they won’t know who they are, or what they are, or why they are even here,” she said. “I could not be more grateful for those three major works.”
Tyson continued with:
“I think it’s extremely important for young people. That’s who I hope get a chance to see it most,” Tyson said. “I think it gives them a greater understanding and respect for elders, which I think is missing in youth today. They don’t want to hear what you have to say, and they certainly don’t do what you direct them to do.”
Her broadway to TV co-star of the Lifetime movie, Vanessa Williams, added her two cents about Tyson’s impact on her as an actress as well.
“[Cicely Tyson] paved the way,” Williams added. “We’re talking about Roots, We’re talking about Miss Jane Pittman. She was the person that I looked up to as an actor sitting on my parents’ bed watching event TV, back in the day and saying, ‘one day I can do that.’”
“The Trip to Bountiful” aired Saturday night. Check Lifetime’s listings for upcoming re-runs.
Watch theGrio interview below: