Pioneering Dynasty actress Diahann Carrol dead at 84

Posted Monday, October 07, 2019 4:42:43 AM
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Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning actress Diahann Carroll (ex-Dominique Deveraux, Dynasty and The Colbys), has died. The groundbreaking actress was 84.

Actress Diahann Carroll, a Dynasty alum who went on to be nominated for an Oscar and win Golden Globe and Tony awards, passed away at the age of 84. She had been suffering from cancer and died at her home in Los Angeles on Friday, says her daughter, Susan Kay.

Carroll helped pave the path for black performers in the entertainment industry, being the first black woman to win the Best Actress Tony for her performance in the 1962 Broadway musical No Strings. She had a Golden Globe-winning run as the title character in the 1960s TV show Julia, the first US sitcom to center on a black woman. And she often appeared in plays previously considered exclusive territory for white actors, like Same Time, Next Year; Agnes of God; and Sunset Boulevard (as faded star Norma Desmond, the role played by Gloria Swanson in the 1950 film).

"I like to think that I opened doors for other women, although that wasn't my original intention," Carroll said of her career back in 2002.

In addition to blazing the trail for black women, Carroll brought immeasurable and unforgettable entertainment to soap opera fans as the scheming Dominique Deveraux on the popular series Dynasty, a role she played from 1984 to 1987. The New York City native also played the character on the drama series' spinoff The Colbys.

Born Carol Diann Johnson in Harlem, New York, in 1935, Carroll was modeling by the age of 15 and was reportedly the model for one of the first black Barbie dolls. She landed her first Hollywood role at the age of 19, appearing opposite Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones. Some of her following credits include 1959's Porgy and Bess alongside Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr, and Dandridge; 1961's Paris Blues with Paul Newman; 1967's Hurry Sundown, with Michael Caine and Jane Fonda; and Claudine, for which she was nominated for an Oscar in 1975.

In response to a question about why she didn't make more films after Claudine, Carroll once said, "Have you seen another film script with a starring role with the character of Claudine? I haven't." She later told another reporter, "I am sometimes amazed at how few people realize what it takes for a black woman to survive in this business."

Carroll -- who many stars like Halle Berry and Angela Bassett cite as an inspiration for their careers -- suffered racism as an actress in Hollywood and as a singer. One instance detailed in her autobiography involved an orchestra conductor who told her that the audience didn't want to hear a black person sing. She confronted him, called the police and eventually had the man removed from the show, she wrote.

Following Carroll's death, several daytime stars took a moment to honor her memory on social media. Victoria Rowell (ex-Drucilla Winters, The Young and the Restless) wrote, "A remarkable movie star who changed the paradigm." Bryton James (Devon Hamilton, Y&R) said, "We're here because you were there." And Obba Babatundé (Julius Avant, The Bold and the Beautiful) wrote, "It has taken me some time to compose myself and articulate what I'm feeling as it relates to the transition of the Queen Diahann Carroll. But there are no words to accurately express what I'm feeling. So, I'll just bow and say Thank You Thank YOU THANK YOU."

Would you like to leave your condolences for Carroll and her family? What are some of your favorite memories of Carroll's time as Dynasty schemer Dominique Deveraux? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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