Cicely Tyson: Viola Davis and Barack Obama lead tributes to Emmy-winning actor

Award-winning actor has died aged 96

Isobel Lewis
Friday 29 January 2021 10:27 GMT
Tyson and Davis in 2015
Tyson and Davis in 2015 (Getty Images)

Barack Obama, Viola Davis and Zendaya have led tributes to actor Cicely Tyson, who has died aged 96.

The death of the Emmy and Tony-award winning actor, who rose to fame in the 1960s, was confirmed on Thursday (28 January) by her manager.

Over the years, Tyson worked extensively across the screen and stage, including her Oscar-nominated turn in 1972’s Sounder, a role in The Help and supporting parts in Showing Roots, Last Flag Flying, House of Cards and A Fall from Grace.

Davis, who played Tyson’s daughter on How to Get Away with Murder, posted a lengthy tribute to the actor on Thursday evening as she reacted to the “devastating” news.

“My heart is just broken,” she wrote. “I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! 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. I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But... I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me. Rest well.”

Former US president Barack Obama also posted about Tyson, writing: “In her extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson was one of the rare award-winning actors whose work on the screen was surpassed only by what she was able to accomplish off of it. She had a heart unlike any other and for 96 years, she left a mark on the world that few will ever match."

Zendaya tweeted: “This one hurts, today we honor and celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.”

“She was an extraordinary person. And this is an extraordinary loss,” Shonda Rhimes wrote. She had so much to teach. And I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for every moment. Her power and grace will be with us forever.”

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Yara Shahidi shared a picture of herself and Tyson, writing: “Heartbroken by the passing of the LEGENDARY, GRACEFUL, and ICONIC, Cicely Tyson.

“From her iconic roles and dedication to her craft, to being the first Black Women to wear her hair naturally on TV, to being my first movie grandmother and guiding me with such care ... her impact is TRULY INCALCULABLE.”

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