Tyler Perry, Viola Davis & More Stars Mourn The Death Of Cicely Tyson: ‘I’m Devastated’

Celebrities like Tyler Perry, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah and more flooded social media with condolences and throwback photos upon learning that Hollywood lost a legend, 'Sounder' star Cicely Tyson, on Jan. 28.

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Cicely Tyson rocked Hollywood with the heartbreaking announcement of her death on Jan. 28. She passed away at 96 years old, leaving behind a legacy of iconic roles in films like Sounder, which countless celebrities remembered as they took to social media with their tributes. Among the many condolences, Tyler Perry made sure to remember the beloved star, who starred in four of the director’s films: Diary of a Mad Black WomanMadea’s Family Reunion, Why Did I Get Married Too? and most recently, his 2020 movie A Fall From Grace.

Tyler Perry, Cicely Tyson
Tyler Perry’s tribute for Cicely Tyson. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Tyler revealed that he was watching one of Cicely’s most famous films, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, when he learned that his longtime star had passed away. “I was sitting at the table working when I got this overwhelming feeling to watch Miss Jane Pittman. I hadn’t seen the movie in years. I didn’t even understand the feeling to turn it on, but I did anyway. Not 12 minutes into the movie my phone rang. It was Oprah calling to tell me that Cicely had died,” the famous director revealed, who went on to describe how Cicely brought him “great joy” in the past 16 years that they’ve collaborated together. You can read his full tribute post from Facebook above.

Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey’s tribute for Cicely Tyson. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Oprah Winfrey herself paid tribute to Cicely by recalling the time the former talk show host threw the Legends Ball in 2005 to honor Cicely and more Black women in entertainment and activism. “Of all the times and experiences we shared together, this was one of my favorites: The weekend of the Legends Ball in 2005. The idea for the ball originated because I wanted to celebrate HER, and other remarkable Black women who carved a path and built a bridge for me and generations to follow. What a joy to honor her and feel her to receive it! I loved her hat so much, she sent it to me afterwards,” Oprah wrote in her post, and included a photo of them at the ball. You can also read Oprah’s full tribute above.

Another star who worked with Cicely was Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder. Cicely starred as Ophelia Harkness for five years in the show, and it was one of her last acting projects. “She was an extraordinary person. And this is an extraordinary loss. 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,” Shonda wrote in her tribute, which also featured a throwback photo of the HTGAWM executive producer with Cicely.

Fellow legendary actress Viola Davis also co-starred alongside Cicely in HTGAWM. Viola wrote an emotional tribute for her castmate on Instagram: “I’m devastated. My heart is just broken. 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.”

Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson
Viola Davis’s tribute for Cicely Tyson. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Another one of Cicely’s co-stars was LeVar Burton, who played the actress’s son in the 1977 miniseries Roots. LeVar shared a photo as their characters from the show and wrote, “This one cuts deep. @IAmCicelyTyson was my first screen Mom.. Elegance, warmth, beauty, wisdom, style and abundant grace. She was as regal as they come. An artist of the highest order, I will love her forever…”

Zendaya, Cicely Tyson
Zendaya’s tribute for Cicely Tyson. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Even former President Barack Obama offered a tribute by sharing a photo from the day he presented the icon with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. “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,” Barack wrote over the photo.

Barack’s wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, shared her own message as well. “What struck me every time I spent time with Cicely Tyson was not necessarily her star power—though that was evident enough—it was her humanity. Just by walking into a room, she had this way of elevating everyone around her,” Michelle tweeted, which she proved by also posting photos of Cicely’s gorgeous smile as the actress hugged the former First Lady.

Zendaya also took to Twitter and shared a sentimental photograph of Cicely taken years ago. “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,” the Euphoria star wrote. Yara Shahidi was just as heartbroken; the Grown-ish star shared a photo of herself with Cicely at ELLE’s Women in Hollywood event in 2017 and wrote, “Heartbroken by the passing of the LEGENDARY, GRACEFUL, and ICONIC, Cicely Tyson [heartbreak emojis] 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 #RestInPower.”

Actress Gabrielle Union was just as heartbroken, and shared a throwback photo of Cicely holding her Primetime Emmy Awards in 1974 (the actress was a three-time recipient). “We have lost a visionary, a leader, a lover, an author, an ICON, and one of the most talented actresses the world has ever seen. A life, a career, a fire to celebrated forevermore! #RIPCicelyTyson,” Gabrielle wrote.

Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson at the 1974 Primetime Emmy Awards; Cicely became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for “Lead Actress” that year. (Photo Credit: AP Images)

Common also shared photos of Cicely and tweeted, “I’m so sad to hear the news that trailblazing artist and cultural icon Cicely Tyson has passed away today. While she may be gone, her work and life will continue to inspire millions for years to come. God Bless.”

Common’s tribute for Cicely Tyson. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Tiffany Haddish shared a photo of Cicely’s new memoir, Just as I Am: A Memoir, which was released just two days before the author’s death. “Rest In Peace Queen!,” the actress and comedian captioned her Instagram post. And Mr. Iglesias star Sherri Shepherd tweeted, “If only we could be as blessed as the prolific, vivacious and pioneering Cicely Tyson to live to be 96 and have had such a full life, accomplish so many awesome milestones and leave such an incredible body of work. She’ll never be forgetten! #CicelyTyson.” 

Meanwhile, Charmed star Alyssa Milano offered her “condolences to the Tyson family” who were the ones to announce Cicely’s death on Thursday afternoon, and Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth in This Is Us, called Cicely a “Way Maker” and “Legend” on Instagram.

Journalist Katie Couric penned an especially long tribute for Cicely and pointed out her many pioneering accomplishments as a Black American actress in the film industry. “Throughout her career, Cicely Tyson refused to play drug addicts, prostitutes or maids, roles she thought demeaning to Black women. She made history when she became the first Black woman to get a recurring role in a drama series ‘East Side/West Side,’ and made history again when she became the first Black woman to win an Emmy as a lead actress in a television movie for her role in ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’,” Katie wrote — you can read the full message, here.

One of Cicely’s very last acting projects also included a role on Ava DuVernay‘s romance and drama series on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Cherish The Day, which premiered in 2020. Ava took to Instagram with a moving message after losing her beloved star: “Your hugs I’ll remember. How your petite arms wrapped around me like mighty branches of a sunlit tree, strong and warm. Your laugh I’ll remember. How it came easily and heartily and sounded like good music. Your work I’ll remember. How your brave portrayals transformed the way the world witnessed Black women, whether they could accept what you shared or not. Your words I’ll remember. How each time I hung up the phone, I’d write them down so as not forget the precious jewels of encouragement and wisdom you’d gifted me. Your love I’ll remember. You loved me for some reason. You told me so often. I thank you for that forever and I’ll carry your love with me as I go. Bless you as you journey ahead, Your Majesty. Until we meet again…”

Cicely’s longtime manager, Larry Thompson, announced the legend’s death on behalf of her family on Jan. 28. “With heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy,” the manager revealed in a statement to HollywoodLife. As you can see from the many tributes above, Cicely left a significant impact on Hollywood and won three Primetime Emmy awards, a Tony Award, Peabody Award, and even the Presidential Medal of Freedom throughout her lifetime.

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