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TV Industry Remembers, Celebrates Cicely Tyson

Xosha Roquemore (l) and Cicely Tyson in 'Cherish The Day'
Xosha Roquemore (l) and Cicely Tyson in OWN's 'Cherish The Day' (Image credit: OWN)

The entertainment industry lost one of its most important and influential treasures when actress Cicely Tyson passed away Thursday night at 96 years old.

I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Tyson a little more than a year ago during the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour. I asked her whether she felt the television industry had changed for the better or worse since the 1960s and 1970s, when she fought to help set a standard for strong, dignified and positive on-screen roles for Black actors and actresses.

Ms. Tyson thought about it for a second, then said very succinctly: “I don’t know if I would put it in the category of better or worse. I have never known a day in my life when I could just sit around and watch a network that just aired Black culture, and it was quite an experience, I would dare say. I am so proud and pleased that I lived to see the day when we just didn’t have to look at Amos ’n’ Andy. We have some variety — it runs the gamut finally of what the industry is supposed to be about.”

The same TV industry that Tyson lauded for its evolution took time to celebrate Tyson’s remarkable seven-decade entertainment career that garnered her 16 Emmy nominations — including a 2020 nod for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Ophelia Harkness in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder — and three Emmy wins.

Oprah Winfrey, whose OWN Network aired the drama series Cherish the Day, Tyson’s last starring role in a television series, recalled Tyson’s magnificence both as an actress and as a person. OWN this Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 30-31) will present a special re-airing of 2014's Oprah’s Master Class: Cicely Tyson in memory of the actress.

 “Ms. Tyson was a rare talent both on and off the screen, one that we at OWN were blessed and honored to work with and be inspired by,” said Tina Perry, president, OWN. “We are so grateful for the gifts she gave us with her art, her activism, and her passionate love of life. May she rise in power.”

Also Read: OWN Renews 'Cherish the Day'

“Of all the times and experiences we shared together, this was one of my favorites: The weekend of the Legends Ball in 2005,” Winfrey said in a statement. “The idea for the ball originated because I wanted to celebrate her, and other remarkable Black women who carved a path and built a bridge for me and generations to follow. What a joy to honor her and feel her receive it! I loved her hat so much, she sent it to me afterwards. Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job. She used her career to illuminate the humanity in Black people. The roles she played reflected her values; she never compromised. Her life so fully lived is a testimony to greatness.”

Also Read: Cicely Tyson has Died

Turner Classic Movies said Friday it will air on Jan. 31 two of Tyson's memorable films — Sounder and A Man Called Adam — as part of its “TCM Remembers Cicely Tyson” celebration.

Other networks and celebrities took to social media to celebrate Tyson’s life and career.

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