The magnificent Diahann Carroll discussed her television legacy with EBONY.com in a new interview. In the Q&A, Diahann reflects on her groundbreaking sitcom, Julia, plus shares her thoughts on the Kerry Washington-led Scandal.
EBONY: It’s fitting that you’re being toasted as a pioneer of television by PBS. Julia was something that Black folks hadn’t seen on TV before.
Diahann Carroll: I did feel that it was something that I had not seen in my childhood, and that was the star of a show being not only a woman, but a Black woman. I was very happy to be that representative. I felt that I could do it, and I liked to only try to do jobs that I feel I can do. So once that was established and we had the ratings and the approval of the American public, I felt very honored to have been able to present that the way we did at that time.
EBONY: Did you understand going in what you were about to do?
DC: No. I must be very honest with you. I was never, in my life really, a big television person. I felt it was a charming little show and that I loved the writing. I felt it would be somehow necessary. But I never thought that it would carry with it the kind of weight that it has, in terms of making a contribution into this country moving along with our acute racial problem.
EBONY: Your name comes up in copious amounts of stories, because before mid-season last year, we hadn’t seen a Black woman carry a show since yours. Now we have Kerry Washington in Scandal. Does it shock you that we saw that kind of fall off after your iconic role?
DC: Of course. I’m sure it shocked all of us. I know that it has a lot to do with politics, it has a lot to do with money. What product is going to be most saleable all over the world? Listen, I can’t fault the industry for that. They’re in the business to make money, they’re not in the business to make themselves humanitarians. I wish that, but it’s just not true.
EBONY: We just inaugurated a Black president for the second time, but there still seems to be this struggle for Black folks in Hollywood. Why aren’t the two aligning?
DC: Anyone who feels that we have resolved the racist problems in this country… We’ve made some steps, but we certainly haven’t resolved it. If we’re foolish enough to think that an African-American president will resolve those, then we’re not thinking clearly. He’s a very, very committed man, and I’m very proud of him. But it would be great if more of us could become producers, and I think we’re trying to do that. So we’ll see where it goes over the next five years.
You can read the interview in full over at EBONY.com.
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