Cicely Tyson has become a pillar of television, the silver screen and the stage. Of her many successes, the most recent however, and one she hails as a “once in a lifetime role”, was her part in the revival of The Trip to Bountiful.
Having become one of the oldest recipients of a Tony for her performance as Ms. Carrie Watts in Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, Tyson also won an Emmy in the Lifetime production of the tv movie of the same name. With the esteem of this role solidified, Cicely spoke exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter about her experience and the significance this role has to her amongst the many other notable performances in her career.
In 1985 I was wandering around Hollywood and saw Geraldine [Page]’s name on the marquee. I absolutely adored her, but I had no idea what The Trip to Bountiful was about—I hadn’t ever read it, I hadn’t seen it on television, I just was not familiar with it—so I just went into the theater to see her. And I walked out, got in my car, drove right to my agent’s office and I said to him, “You get me my Trip to Bountiful and I will retire!” He just laughed. But I made a visit to his office every single month, and every time I was there I said, “Where’s my Trip to Bountiful?!” Now, tell me if this is not miraculous: in 2011, I’m sitting in my house; the phone rings; it’s my assistant, and she says, “Van is looking for you.” Van Ramsey is a costume designer whom I have worked with a number of times. He was looking for me because, he told me, he had a friend who wanted to meet with me and talk about a possible project, so we met. She said to me, “My father had such tremendous respect for you. I want to do one of his plays. I’d love to do it with a black cast. And if you say no to the lead, which is what I want you to play, I won’t do it.” So I said to her, “Who was your father?” She said, “Horton Foote,” and I fell off the chair. [laughs] When I could recover I said, “And the play is what?” She said, “The Trip to Bountiful.” Is that something? It was 26 years later!
Cicely also had some beautiful and encouraging words about being looked to as an inspiration by budding stars such as Keri Washington and Viola Davis:
If, in fact, I have, in some way, been the inspiration for any of them, I will feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do, and that is to break the mold and the concept that limited people’s vision of what we, as black women, or black actresses, could do in this business.
We love Cicely Tyson and appreciate her for all of her accomplishment in the field of acting. A true testament of knowing and honing your craft, Cicely has been a beacon and the blueprint for what a carefully navigated career looks like and how owning your presence benefits you both on and off-stage, a lesson worthy of real-life application.