BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: Cicely Tyson tells all in ‘Just As I Am: A Memoir’

By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

The stunning life story of Academy, Tony, and three-time Emmy Award winning actress and trailblazer Cicely Tyson is detailed in “Just As I Am: A Memoir,” being released Jan. 26 by Amistad Books.

The Harlem native began her career as a fashion model, gracing the covers of Ebony and Jet. She transitioned to acting in 1951 and is still featured in coveted roles depicting strong, Black women outside of caricature or stereotypes.

She played Viola Davis’ mother in “How to Get Away with Murder,” Coretta Scott King in “King,” Jane Pittman in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” and Mother Watts in “Trip to Bountiful.”

What is perhaps most incredible has been her ability to appeal to viewers across race and generations by embodying characters that are fresh and current. From classics such as “Roots” and “Sounder” to contemporary programming like “House of Cards” and “Saturday Night Live,” of which she was the first Black female host.

Now at 96, Tyson travels from stage to page to bring the world an unprecedented peek into her closely guarded personal life and the grounding forces of family and faith that have informed her life. Ever humble, she says, “The greatest gratification has come in refining my craft, not in gazing upon its merits.”

Three sections (Planted, Rooted and Bountiful) delve into revelatory life lessons from each major role, lessons that are unexpected, profound and that have helped her navigate her personal and public lives in tandem.

“‘Just As I Am,’ is my truth,” she stated. “It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet, I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named.

“I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.”

TASTY QUIP: “To be an artist is a tremendous privilege, but it’s also abused at times. Sometimes you feel like you’re fighting for the simplest of things — even after you’ve been in the industry for 30 years, you still feel like every contract is a fight. Every time I get an offer, it’s usually a fight.” – COLMAN DOMINGO (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Fear The Walking Dead”) to TheWrap

CLIPPETTES: Two-time Grammy Award-winner Fantastic Negrito will headline a livestream concert from Oakland’s Downtown Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23. Get your tickets at ftpresents.com

Also that evening, The Sorting Room Sessions at thewallis.org presents: Sheléa: A Tribute To Alan & Marilyn Bergman. The singer/songwriter/keyboardist will perform songs written by the Oscar-winning married couple including “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” “Pretty World” and “Smile”

Netflix’s “Lupin,” starring Omar Sy (“Jurassic World”) as a gentleman thief and master of disguise, has become the first French series to land in the streamer’s U.S. Top 10 besting the popular “Bridgerton” and “The Queen’s Gambit“ via 70 million households

Malcolm Gladwell and the New Normal After COVID-19” will feature the celebrated best-selling author of “Outliers” and “Tipping Point” in an hour-long conversation at 9 a.m. Jan. 27.  Register for tickets at Eventbrite.com

Later that day, Michael Eric Dyson tackles “Pandemic, Post-Election Blues & Culture: Where Do We Go From Here?” as part of the GRCC Diversity Lecture Series with tickets also available via Eventbrite

H.E.R. (performing “America The Beautiful”) and Jazmine Sullivan (singing the National Anthem with Eric Church) have been added to the festivities of Super Bowl LV from Tampa Bay, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium.  They join previously announced halftime show headliner The Weeknd for the Feb. 7 event.

PRIZE FIGHT: Nominations are out for the “26th annual Critics Choice Awards” with Netflix’s “Ozark” and “The Crown” leading with six apiece for the show to be televised March 7 on the CW Network.

Both shows will vie for Best Drama Series against CBS All Access’ “The Good Fight,” HBO’s “Lovecraft Country (with Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Michael K. Williams and Wunmi Mosaku also nominated), Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” and NBC’s “This Is Us (with previous winner Sterling K. Brown up again).

Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae and Michaela Coel got nominations for their roles in HBO’s “The Outsider,” “Insecure,” and “I May Destroy You,” respectively, with the latter also up for Best Limited Series along with Amazon’s “Small Axe” (with John Boyega recognized).

FX’s “Fargo” garnered nominations for the work of Chris Rock and Glynn Turman (who will face Daveed Diggs and Joshua Caleb Johnson from Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird” for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series.

Best Movie Made For Television will be a showdown between HBO’s “Bad Education” and “Between the World and Me,” Lifetime’s “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel,” Disney+’s “Hamilton,” and Amazon’s “Sylvie’s Love” (with its star Tessa Thompson nominated as well).

Perhaps the biggest surprise are two relative newcomers to the Best Talk Show category: Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch series “Red Table Talk” and Showtime’s equally controversial “Desus & Mero.”

TC ON TV: Jan. 22 – “The White Tiger” (Netflix): Aravind Adiga’s novel is adapted into a feature film starring Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. “Pixar Popcorn” (Disney+): A collection of mini shorts featuring the studio’s popular characters in all-new, bite-size stories. “In Concert At The Hollywood Bowl” (PBS): “Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico)” features performances by Rodrigo y Gabriela, Los Angeles Azules with YOLA, La Santa Cecilia and Natalia Lafourcade. “The Wrong Prince Charming” (Lifetime): Successful entrepreneur Bridget (Vivica A. Fox) discovers that the famed Prince of Devonshire (James Nitti) is not what he seems. “Little Women: Atlanta” (Lifetime): Season six kicks off with Ms. Juicy, Minnie, the Tiny Twinz Amanda & Andrea, Abira and the return of Monie, as the ladies all come back together to pursue their dreams in the city’s vibrant hip hop scene. Starting on Jan. 29, the series will premiere 90-minute supersized episodes every Friday night, followed by the all-new 30-minute after show, “Little Women: Atlanta Unfiltered,” hosted by Loni Love of “The Real.”

Jan. 23 – “Salt-N-Pepa” (Lifetime): A breezy three-hour movie depicting the journey of Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton from college students to Grammy-winning platinum selling hip hop superstars. The film, produced by James, Denton, Hurby Azor and Queen Latifah with Mario Van Peebles directing, features performances of the group’s greatest hits, including: “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “What a Man,” “Shoop” and “Push It.”

Jan. 24 – “Delicious Miss Brown” (Food): Kardea Brown is celebrating her momma’s big day with her favorite Tex-Mex meal — Carne Asada Chimichangas, Spicy Rice, Brown Butter Cake with Spiced Chocolate Ganache and Dulce de Leche. “Grace Notes” (BYUTV): Gospel singer Koryn Hawthorne

Jan. 25 – “Snowpiercer” (TNT): Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones”) and Rowan Blanchard (“Girl Meets World”) join the season two cast of the top-rated, post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller (already renewed for another year) alongside stars Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs.

Jan. 26 – “Finding Your Roots” (PBS): In “Against All Odds,” professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. introduces Bravo’s Andy Cohen and NPR’s Nina Totenberg to their survivor ancestors. “American Portrait” (PBS): “I Rise” goes inside the lives of people working to create an antiracist American future. “Mixed-ish” (ABC): In the season premiere, Alicia (Tika Sumpter) and Paul (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) try to find a way to encourage Johan (Ethan William Childress) to be proud of being Black.    

Jan. 27 – “For Life” (ABC): Covid-19 hits Bellmore Prison in the winter premiere of the legal drama starring Nicholas Pinnock, Joy Bryant, Dorian Missick and Timothy Busfield.

TASTY QUIP: “What we say has not been what we do and this country must reconcile our words and deeds. Until we turn our mouth movement into righteous action, we are doing our nation, God and your memory an injustice. Until what we say is what we do, there is no truth. It is just repeating and rewriting history, just as we have for the last 400 years. We must define the truth and the facts that support them and declare them absolute. Those who promote lies and false truths must be held accountable. It is the only way we can move forward.” – From STEVIE WONDER’s “Open Letter To Dr. King”

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at tastyclips@yahoo.com, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.

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