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The Tony winner was the first black woman to star in a TV series in a non-stereotypical role
Diahann Carroll, best known for starring on the late '60s-early '70s comedy Julia and as the diva Dominique Deveraux on the '80s soap Dynasty, has died after a long battle with cancer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 84.
Carroll rose to prominence in the 1950s through movie musicals like Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess, which were among the first studio films to have primarily black casts. She became the first black woman to win a Tony for best actress in a leading role, which she received in 1962 for her performance in the musical No Strings. She earned her first Emmy nomination in 1963 for a guest performance on the show Naked City.
With Julia, Carroll was the first black actress to star in a non-stereotypical role in her own primetime network series. She played a nurse named Julia Baker, who was raising a son alone after her husband died in Vietnam and working for a doctor named Morton Chegley, played by Lloyd Nolan. The series ran for three seasons on NBC, from 1968 to 1971, and garnered Carroll her second Emmy nomination, as well as a Golden Globe win in 1969. Carroll was not the first black woman to lead a network sitcom, but the title character in Beulah, which aired on ABC from 1950 to 1952, was a housekeeper who was often portrayed as a "mammy" stereotype. Although Julia was not particularly well received by critics at the time, it left an important legacy for how it presented black characters differently than other shows of the period. "We were saying to the country, 'We're going to present a very upper middle-class black woman raising her child, and her major concentration is not going to be about suffering in the ghetto,' " Carroll said in 1998.
After Julia, she earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for the 1974 movie Claudine and joined the cast of the era-defining primetime soap opera Dynasty during its fourth season in 1984. Carroll played Dominique Deveraux, the half-sister of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). She left the show after Season 7. Dominique was a groundbreaking character in her own right. "I've never played a role quite this unlikeable," Carroll said in 1984. "And I like that. I like that very much because I think very often, particularly minorities, it's almost required of them that they are nice people, and I don't want to play a nice person."
Later in her career, she earned two more Emmy nominations for guest-starring roles, for A Different World in 1989 and Grey's Anatomy in 2008. She was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011.
Carroll was born Carol Diahann Johnson in the Bronx on July 17, 1935. She was married four times and had a long affair with actor Sidney Poitier in the '60s. She is survived by her daughter, journalist Suzanne Kay Bamford, whom she had with her first husband, music producer Monte Kay.