What a Trip! Cicely Tyson Gets the Rich Role She's Longed for in Bountiful

By Harry Haun
30 Mar 2013

Tyson at a recent press event
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
To prep for her dream part, Tyson trekked to Texas for a luxurious atmosphere-soak before rehearsals began. "I'd been to Texas once before," she says, referring to "The Road to Galveston," a 1996 television movie that, ironically, also involved an elderly widow putting in a little traveling time in Texas, "but I wanted to go back down there again.

"I wanted to know what it was about Bountiful that made this woman long to return to it, so I said — and I usually do this anyway when I research roles — 'I'll go to the area.' I need to taste, smell, feel, hear what's there. It was incredible. I understood, although there was a great change in what it had been to what she returned to. I knew what it was she wanted once I set foot on that earth and was enveloped by it."

Producer Nelle Nugent has signed on some all-star co-stars to accompany Tyson to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre when the show opens there April 23.

Carrie's son will be played by Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and her daughter-in-law by Tony nominee Vanessa Williams. Prominent in support are a pair of Tony contenders: Tom Wopat as the sheriff sent to retrieve her and Condola Rashad as a soldier's wife she meets during her trip.

Also along for the ride: Arthur French, Devon Abner, Bill Kux, Charles Turner, and Susan Heyward. The director is Michael Wilson, who shepherded such Foote works as The Carpetbagger's Children, Dividing the Estate and The Orphans' Home Cycle.

Tyson herself is an Oscar nominee — for "Sounder" (1972) — and a three-time Emmy winner. "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," in which she magnificently portrayed the 110-year-old title character, won her two Emmys in 1974 (it's hard to explain how she got the pair, but, if you saw that performance, you might be thinking, "Only two?"); the third came 20 years later with "The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," in which she played a house slave — a relative spring chicken of 60 or 70, alongside Anne Bancroft's 100-year-old widow.

Will Carrie Watts earn Tyson a Tony to carry home? The Tony is about the only award that this role hasn't won for an actress. Geraldine Page got the Oscar and the Independent Spirit Award for it. The 2005 Off-Broadway revival won the wonderful Lois Smith every award she was eligible for: the Obie, the Lortel, the Jefferson, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Drama Desk Award.

Only time will tell if Tyson's trip back to Broadway will be equally as fruitful.

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Vanessa Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Cicely Tyson
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN