By Desire Thompson
The opening of Tyler Perry’s film studio in Atlanta over the weekend was a joyous but bittersweet occasion as the filmmaker intended to honor pioneering actress Diahann Carroll before her untimely passing.
Carroll died Friday (Oct 4) after a long battle with cancer. As tributes poured in from peers and admirers like Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, Perry shared his plans of naming his sound stage to the legendary entertainer.
“As I sat reviewing her video tribute, I got a request to call her daughter when she told me of her Mother’s passing,” he said in a touching dedication on Instagram. As a push of grief overwhelmed him, Perry recalled a feeling of appreciation for Carroll and her legacy. The two worked together when Carroll starred in Perry’s 2013 comedy Peeples.
“I was so thankful in my soul because I got to be on the planet at the same time as this barrier-breaking, race shattering, mythical beauty, that will forever be Diahann Carroll. Thank you, Ms. Carroll, for how you showed the world that Black people are special, strong, beautiful and powerful,” he continued. “I know you will live on in our hearts, but I’m so glad to know that your name will live on at Stage 5 at Tyler Perry Studios. Thank you for letting me honor you and thank you for lending your legend to my studio to inspire generations to come.”
Perry’s studio has 11 other sound stages named after legendary Black people in the film industry. The director hosted a gala over the weekend to celebrate the official opening with guests like Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Cecily Tyson, Spike Lee, Tyrese. Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kelly Rowland, Bow Wow and Jay-Z.
Carroll’s legacy is one many should study. She became the first African-American actress to star in a TV series by playing a non-stereotypical role (1968’s Julia), was the first Black woman to win a Tony award and starred in legendary films like Carmen Jones, Claudine alongside a young James Earl Jones; and TV series like Dynasty, A Different World and the USA drama White Collar.