Diahann Carroll has graced our television and film screens for decades, and she leaves behind many stellar performances. She has a ton of groundbreaking and signature roles to choose from, but we have focused on just seven of the roles that helped her become an icon.
1. Connie Lampson, Paris Blues
Carroll starred alongside Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman in the 1961 film Paris Blues. In the film, Carroll stars as Connie Lampson, an American touring Paris with her friend Lillian Corning (Joanne Woodward) when she meets Eddie Cook (Poitier), a jazz musician, and his fellow musician friend Ram Bowen (Paul Newman). The film revolves around the women’s relationship with these men, but in particular, it focuses on Parisian attitudes towards Black Americans versus the racism Black Americans faced at home. Connie tries to persuade Eddie to move back to America to help change society, but he refuses because of how he and his art are accepted overseas.
2. Julia Baker, Julia
In 1968, Carroll broke television barriers by portraying Julia Baker in Julia. Julia was a widow who lost her husband in the Vietnam War. As a single mother, she worked as a nurse while raising her son (Marc Copage) in a predominately white apartment complex. While Carroll made history as the first Black woman to star in her own television series, the character is thought of as one of the first to showcase a Black woman in a non-stereotypical role, along with Nichelle Nichols on 1966’s Star Trek.
3. Claudine Price, Claudine
Carroll starred in the 1974 romantic dramedy film, Claudine, as the title character, Claudine Price. Similar to Carroll’s character on Julia, Claudine is a single mother trying to raise her children. However, unlike Julia, who lives an upper-middle class lifestyle, Claudine is raising six children on welfare. She falls in love with a garbage collector, Rupert Marshall (James Earl Jones), amid their societal and economic hardships.
4. Dominique Deveraux, Dynasty
Carroll became an integral part of the hit nighttime soap Dynasty when she made her debut in 1984. As the famous half-sister of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe), Dominique sparred often with the other glamorous women of the show, most notably Alexis Colby (Joan Collins). Carroll reprised her role as Dominique in the Dynasty spinoff, The Colbys.
5. Marion Gilbert, A Different World
Carroll first appeared on A Different World as Whitley Gilbert’s wealthy southern mother, Marion, in 1989. In each of her appearances, including the fateful interrupted marriage between Whitley and politician Byron Douglas III (Joe Morton), Marion exudes class, haughtiness, and her visible distaste at having someone like Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) as her future son-in-law.
6. Elzora, Eve’s Bayou
Carroll starred in the 1997 film Eve’s Bayou as Elzora, a woman known as a fortune teller with magical abilities. She acts as a catalyst of sorts for the events that transpire throughout the film, chief of which being when Eve (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) asks Elzora for a spell to kill her father (Samuel L. Jackson) after he cheated on her mother (Lynn Whitfield) and was accused of trying to molest her sister Cisely (Meagan Good).
7. June Ellington, White Collar
Between 2009 and 2014, Carroll had a major recurring role on White Collar as June Ellington, a widow who becomes friends with Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and allows him to stay with her in her guest room. She often helps Neal on his cases, such as when she sang at a jazz club that Neal was investigating.
BONUS: Twitter user @Mndspeak88 posted this clip of Judy Garland and Diahann Carroll singing a medley of Broadway songs on The Judy Garland Show in 1964.
I was JUST coming to post this vintage clip of Diahann Carroll and Judy Garland singing together ???? pic.twitter.com/IRb2Jlctnw
— Eric Targaryen: The Charmed One (@Mndspeak88) October 4, 2019
What are your favorite moments from Carroll’s career?
Photo: Getty Images
From Harlem to Hollywood, get the Black entertainment news you need in your inbox daily.