Diahann Carroll, the Oscar-nominated actor and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a non-servant role in a TV series, has died at the age of 84.

Carroll‘s daughter Susan Kay says her mother died on Friday in Los Angeles of cancer.

During a long career, Carroll earned a Tony Award for the musical No Strings and an Academy Award nomination for Claudine.

But she was perhaps best known in her home country for her pioneering work on the TV series Julia.

Carroll played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband had been killed in Vietnam, in the groundbreaking situation comedy that aired from 1968 to 1971.


Although she was not the first black woman to star in her own TV show (Ethel Waters played a maid in the 1950s series Beulah), she was the first to star as someone other than a servant.

NBC executives were wary about putting Julia on the network during the racial unrest of the 1960s, but it was an immediate hit.

She appeared often in plays previously considered exclusive territory for white actors: Same Time, Next Year, Agnes Of God and Sunset Boulevard (as faded star Norma Desmond, the role played by Gloria Swanson in the 1950 film).

“I like to think that I opened doors for other women, although that wasn’t my original intention,” she said in 2002.


In the 1980s, she appeared in the long-running prime-time soap opera Dynasty for three years.

More recently, she had a number of guest slots and small roles in TV series, including playing the mother of Isaiah Washington’s character on Grey’s Anatomy.

She also returned to her roots in nightclubs. In 2006, she made her first club appearance in New York in four decades, singing at Feinstein’s at the Regency.


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