Diahann Carroll, TV Trailblazer and Dynasty‘s Queen of Shade, Has Died at 84
Diahann Carroll made history as the first black woman to star in her own sitcom in 1968.
Diahann Carroll, an actress who made history with her contributions to the screen and stage, has just passed away. She died at 84 years old after struggling with cancer, according to her daughter, journalist and producer Suzanne Kay, who confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter.
In Carroll’s career, she mastered many firsts, and portrayed a handful of iconic television characters—like the icy Dominique Deveraux on Dynasty, going toe to toe with Joan Collins as her nemesis, Alexis Carrington. (When Alexis Carrington asks Dominique Deveraux about burned caviar in an attempt to undermine the newcomer, she sharply replies, “I really wouldn’t know. This is Ostetrova and I prefer Petrossian Beluga,” solidifying her status as the queen of shade on this soapy 1970s drama.)
In 1968, Carroll got her big television break when she played the titular protagonist in Julia, which made her the first African-American woman to star on a television show.
Carroll starred on the series as a single working mother named Julia for three seasons, but before that she won a Tony Award for starring in Richard Rodgers’s No Strings. The role of Barbara Woodruff, a black fashion model who falls in love with a white American writer named David Jordan had been written just for her by Rodgers, and her Tony win was the first for a black woman in the lead actress in a musical category. In the 1950s she appeared in films Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess, both of which were some of the earlier classic Hollywood studio films to prominently feature a black cast. Her performance in the 1974 romantic drama Claudine, in which she played opposite James Earl Jones, earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress.
Later on she would play Whitney Gilbert’s mother on A Different World and Dr. Burke’s mother on Grey’s Anatomy. And though she played some iconic TV moms, she was a mother figure of sorts in real life to many other black actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. Celebrities from Ava DuVernay to Debbie Allen, and of course her Dynasty co-star Joan Collins, have responded to the news of Carroll’s passing with their remembrances on social media.