NEW YORK -- Diahann Carroll, the Oscar-nominated actress and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a nonservant role in a TV series as Julia, has died. She was 84.
Carroll's daughter, Susan Kay, said that her mother died Friday in Los Angeles of cancer.
During her long career, Carroll earned a Tony Award for the musical No Strings and an Academy Award nomination for best actress for Claudine.
But she was perhaps best known for her pioneering work on Julia. Carroll played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband had been killed in Vietnam, in the groundbreaking situation comedy that aired from 1968 to 1971.
"Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats," director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter. "She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll."
Although she was not the first black woman to star in her own TV show (Ethel Waters played a maid in the 1950s series Beulah), she was the first to star as someone other than a servant.
NBC executives were wary about putting Julia on the network during the racial unrest of the 1960s, but it was an immediate hit. Some critics, though, said Carroll's character, who was the mother of a young son, did not realistically portray a black American woman in the 1960s.
"They said it was a fantasy," Carroll recalled in 1998. "All of this was untrue. Much about the character of Julia I took from my own life, my family."
Not shy when it came to confronting racial barriers, Carroll won her Tony portraying a high-fashion American model in Paris who has a love affair with a white American author in the 1959 Richard Rodgers musical No Strings.
Her film career was sporadic. She began with a secondary role in Carmen Jones in 1954 and five years later appeared in Porgy and Bess. Her other films included Goodbye Again, Hurry Sundown, Paris Blues, and The Split.
In the 1980s, she joined the long-running prime-time soap opera Dynasty as Dominique Deveraux, the glamorous half-sister of Blake Carrington. More recently, she did guest shots and small roles in TV series, including Grey's Anatomy and White Collar.
Carol Diann Johnson was born in New York City and attended the High School for the Performing Arts. She began her career as a model, but a prize from Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts TV show led to nightclub engagements.
Metro on 10/05/2019
Print Headline: Pioneering black actress, Tony winner