Tyler Perry’s tribute to Cicely Tyson champions an icon who was ‘always a queen’
Prolific producer and director Tyler Perry, a longtime collaborator of screen legend Cicely Tyson, celebrated the late actress’ trailblazing career with a touching video highlighting some of her best performances.
Perry, who worked with Tyson on titles such as “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Alex Cross” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” uploaded the minute-long montage Friday after penning a heartfelt tribute to the Emmy and Tony winner on social media. Tyson, who also won an honorary Oscar in 2019, died Thursday at 96.
“I was sitting at the table working when I got this overwhelming feeling to watch [Tyson’s ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.’],” Perry wrote on Thursday. “Not 12 minutes into the movie my phone rang. It was Oprah calling to tell me that Cicely had died. This one brought me to my knees! She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup.”
In Perry’s video, posted Friday, he and Tyson can be seen sharing a long embrace and joking around outside the Dream Building at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Interwoven is footage of Tyson performing in “Carib Gold” (1956), “Sounder” (1972), “Roots” (1977), “A Man Called Adam” (1966), “Mission: Impossible” (1970), “I Spy” (1965-66) and other projects.
“My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next,” Perry continued in Thursday’s social media remembrance. “To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy. She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence.
“Always so regal, always so classy, always a lady, always a queen. Every time we would talk I would ask, ‘How are you?’ and you would say, ‘I’m still here. He must have something he wants me to do.’ Well, I think it’s safe to say you have done all you were put here to do, and we are all better for it.”
Tyson’s career spanned seven decades with works such as “Sounder” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”
Perry was among several Hollywood luminaries who flocked to social media to honor Tyson’s legacy. Fellow Emmy winner Viola Davis, who played Tyson’s onscreen daughter in the hit TV drama “How to Get Away With Murder,” gave her costar an emotional sendoff Thursday on Instagram.
“I’m devastated,” Davis wrote. “My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls. You gave me permission to dream....because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself.
“I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But...I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead,” Davis added. “In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me. Rest well.”
Tyson spent more than 60 years using her platform not only to garner awards but to challenge stereotypes about what it means to be a Black woman in America.
“How to Get Away With Murder” executive producer Shonda Rhimes also saluted Tyson, remembering the pioneering entertainer as “an extraordinary person” whose “power and grace will be with us forever.”
“[This] is an extraordinary loss,” Rhimes tweeted. “She had so much to teach. And I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for every moment.”
Another of Tyson’s many collaborators, groundbreaking filmmaker Ava DuVernay, shared a sweet collage of photos hugging her friend and colleague. DuVernay and Tyson most recently joined forces for the former’s OWN series, “Cherish the Day.”
“Your hugs I’ll remember,” DuVernay tweeted on Thursday. “How your petite arms wrapped around me like mighty branches of a sunlit tree, strong and warm. Your love I’ll remember. You loved me for some reason and told me often. Thank you, Your Majesty. And bless you as you journey ahead. Until we meet again...”
TV mogul Oprah Winfrey also remembered Tyson as an artist who “used her career to illuminate the humanity of Black people.”
“Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job,” the OWN founder wrote. “The roles she played reflected her values; she never compromised. Her life so fully lived is a testimony to Greatness.”
And it wasn’t just entertainment figures who mourned Tyson. President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama honored her on social media as well. In 2016, President Obama awarded Tyson the Medal of Freedom.
“What struck me every time I spent time with Cicely Tyson was not necessarily her star power — though that was evident enough — it was her humanity,” Michelle Obama wrote. “Just by walking into a room, she had this way of elevating everyone around her. She was the personification of beauty, grace, wisdom, and strength, carrying forward a flame that not only guided her for 96 pathbreaking years but lit the way for so many of us.”
“Cicely had a heart unlike any other — the kind that would not only beat for 96 more years but leave a mark on the world that few could match,” President Obama wrote. “In her extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson was one of the rare award-winning actors whose work on the screen was surpassed only by what she was able to accomplish off of it.”
See more reactions to Tyson’s death below.
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