Cicely Tyson still ‘nervous’ acting after all these years

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Cicely Tyson has effortlessly graced the stage and screen during the nearly six decades of her career as an actress.

The 79-year-old Academy Award nominee has appeared in countless films including Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Roots, Madea’s Family Reunion and most recently, Alex Cross.

The Harlem native has returned to Broadway for the first time in 30 years, starring in the revival of Horton Foote’s 1953 drama The Trip to Bountiful. Tyson stars alongside Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams, and Condola Rashad as Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who yearns to return to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas before she dies.

During an interview with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, Tyson revealed that she still gets nervous when taking on a new role.

“People always ask me when I say I’m nervous. ‘What do mean you’re nervous? How do you get to be nervous?’” First of all, what they don’t understand is that every one is new; every performance you do is a new performance,” Tyson said. “I treat every single one as something that I’ve never done before, and whatever that brings on is what I go through.”

Tyson was nominated for an Academy Award in 1972 for her performance in Sounder, and won two Emmy Awards in 1974 for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

When asked what she would like her legacy character to be, Tyson, with good reason, declined to answer.

“I wouldn’t tell you. Because I did that one time in my career, there was a character that I wanted very much to play and I was busy doing something else, and I mentioned it to an interviewer and they printed it in the paper. And the next thing I knew, another actress who was available ran like a thief that she was and did it. So I learned never to talk about what I wanted to do.”

The 14-week Broadway run for The Trip to Bountiful begins previews on March 30 at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, with opening night scheduled for April 23.

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC