The television industry has gone through a lot of changes over the past few decades. From introducing storylines that would never previously have been accepted to giving roles to groups of people who have historically been underrepresented, TV seemingly goes through changes quicker than the movie business.
Amongst those legendary trailblazers are a few faces who really stand out, people who were able to transform viewers’ perception of television, as well as the world at large. Diahann Carroll is one of those iconic performers, a woman who went on to become the very first black actor to take home a Golden Globe Award.
How did Diahann Carroll get started in entertainment?
Carroll was born in New York City in 1935. As a child, Carroll displayed an affinity for the performing arts, and her parents, quick to notice her talents, enrolled her in dance, singing, and modeling classes.
Carroll went on to attend the prestigious Manhattan School of Performing Arts. After graduation, Carroll started working as a nightclub singer and model. She embarked on her acting career in 1954 when she was cast in the Broadway play “The House of Flowers.”
According to Biography, Carroll also started getting cast in Hollywood films, including Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess. While Carroll’s career thrived in the ’50s, it wasn’t until the ’60s that she really started getting the recognition that she deserved.
How did Diahann Carroll break barriers on television?
In 1968, Carroll made a career-changing decision. That was the year that the performer was cast in Julia, playing a nurse, widow, and single mother. According to Insider, Carroll was the first Black female lead on TV in a non-stereotypical role. She was also one of the first high-profile single mother characters on television, breaking boundaries at every turn.
Carroll quickly became a fan favorite, with viewers reacting positively to her performance on the TV show Julia. Critics praised her work as well, and eventually, Carroll became the first Black female actor to win a Golden Globe for her acting in Julia in 1969. Carroll had already earned acclaim from Hollywood prior to taking home the award, getting nominated for an Emmy Award in 1963 for her acting in the series Naked City, according to the Emmy Awards official website.
Is Diahann Carroll still acting today?
After her win for Julia, Carroll doubled down, working even harder and becoming a huge star. Julia ran on TV until 1971, but after the series ended its historic run, Carroll didn’t turn her back on television.
In the ’80s, Carroll was cast in the hit soap opera Dynasty, playing the diva Dominique Devereaux. She acted on the show for years, working with other power players like her old friend Billy Dee Williams, and even appeared for a time on the show’s spinoff, The Colbys.
All throughout the ’90s and into the early 2000s, Carroll continued to act, taking roles in stage and screen productions. New generations of fans started discovering Carroll, learning more about the influence that she had on Hollywood—and on the world of television in general.
Some of Carroll’s roles later in life included parts on Grey’s Anatomy and White Collar. The actor worked right up to the end, until she died from breast cancer in October 2019. These days, Carroll is known as not only an iconic singer and actor but a boundary-breaking artist who never hesitated to tackle tough jobs for the sake of improving the world for others.
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