Black History Month: Diahann Carroll
February 11, 2012
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Diahann Carroll was born Carol Diahann Johnson in The Bronx, New York in July 17, 1935. She is an American actress and singer. Carroll was born, to John Johnson of Aiken, South Carolina and Mabel Faulk of Bladenboro, North Carolina. When Carroll was an infant, the family moved to Harlem where she grew up. She attended Music & Art High School, along with schoolmate Billy Dee Williams.
Carroll’s film debut was a supporting role in Carmen Jones (1954) as a friend of the sultry lead character. She then starred in the Broadway musical, House of Flowers. In 1959, she played Clara in the film version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, but her character’s singing parts were dubbed by opera singer Loulie Jean Norman. She made a guest star appearance in the series Peter Gunn, in the episode “Sing a Song of Murder” in 1960. In 1962 she won the Tony Award for best actress (a first for a black woman) for the role of Barbara Woodruff in the Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers musical No Strings. In 1974, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for Claudine.
Although Diahann won a Tony Award for No Strings on Broadway in 1962 and a loyal following in Las Vegas, it was her 1968 NBC sitcom Julia that brought her the most attention. Carroll is best known for her title role in the 1968 television series Julia, which made her the first African American actress to star in her own television series where she did not play a domestic worker. She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1969, and won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress In A Television Series” in 1968. Her first Emmy nomination had come in 1963 for Naked City. Some of her other earlier work included appearances on shows hosted by Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson, Judy Garland and Ed Sullivan, and on The Hollywood Palace variety show.
Later she created the role of Dominique Deveraux on the popular prime time soap opera, Dynasty. Diahann is said to have been watching the prime time soap one evening and thought, “they have a good bitch (Crystal, played by Linda Evans) and a bad bitch (Alexis, played by Joan Collins). Now they need a black bitch!”
In December 2008, Carroll was cast in USA Network’s series White Collar as June, the savvy widow who rents out her guest room to Matt Bomer’s Neal Caffrey.