Watch Cicely Tyson celebrate life in final interview before her death
Cicely Tyson's final interview was a fitting tribute to her legendary impact on pop culture.
Recorded on Wednesday — hours before her death Thursday at age 96 — the Hollywood icon and trailblazer's last talk show appearance on Friday's Live with Kelly and Ryan featured a touching discussion about Tyson's life, career, and her recently published memoir, Just As I Am.
Tyson began the interview with a story about a stranger predicting her future success when she was a baby. "This woman stopped [my mother] and started playing with me, and turned to my mother and said: 'Take care of this child. She has a sixth sense. She's going to make you very proud one day. She will take care of you in your old age.'"
She went on to tell hosts Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest about her pervasive shyness as a child, which she speculated led to her becoming such an observant person and, therefore, an accomplished actress who was able to naturally absorb characters. One such character, Rebecca in the 1972 film Sounder, scored Tyson her first competitive Oscar nomination in a stroke of fate.
"I never thought that I would be nominated for an Oscar. Never. But, I used to view the event every year. One night, I watched it and I said, 'I am going to sit in that front row one day.' And I certainly ended up doing that," Tyson said, explaining that the role came to her after a friend, Gloria Foster, passed on the role because they didn't offer her enough money. "In the meantime, however, I started working on the role of Rebecca.... finally my manager, Larry, came to me and said, 'Well, someone else got the role. She turned it down.' I said, 'Because it doesn't belong to her; it belongs to me."
Tyson would go on to receive an honorary Oscar in 2019 for her groundbreaking career in Hollywood that opened doors for Black performers, including notable turns in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman on top of becoming the first Black woman to have a recurring role on a drama series in East Side/West Side.
"I'm devastated. My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me!" Tyson's How to Get Away with Murder costar, Viola Davis, wrote of the actress' passing in an Instagram post on Thursday. "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."
Watch a portion of Tyson's final interview above.