The loss of legendary actress Cicely Tyspn on Thursday at age 96 brought out a plethora of tributes. Fans from around the world, who were admirers of her vast body of work, took to social media to share their sentiments.
But perhaps the most emotional homage came from her longtime friend and collaborator Tyler Perry, who said he regarded her as “the grandmother I never had.”
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On Instagram, Perry said that he was actually beginning to watch one of Tyson’s most notable performances in the title role of 1974’s “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” when Oprah Winfrey called and told him of her passing. Taken with multiple emotions, he wrote out his feelings about having experienced a part of her rich, accomplished life.
“My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next. To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy,” Perry wrote. “She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence. Always so regal, always so classy, always a lady, always a queen.”
Perry cast Tyson in major roles in several of his movies including “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” and “Why Did I Get Married Too.” Those were in addition to her pivotal roles in other films in addition to her portrayal as the fictional Jane Pittman for which she won an Emmy Award, including her Oscar nominated performance in “Sounder” (1972), “The River Niger” (1976) “Roots” (1977), and dozens of other roles that opened doors for new generations of Black performers.
Her most recent accolade was a Tony award in 2013 for co-starring in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “A Trip To Bountiful.”
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Viola Davis, who co-starred with Tyson in ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder,” also paid tribute to her acting mentor with an Instagram picture of the two hugging.
You gave me permission to dream....because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself,” Davis wrote.
Photo Credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for TCM