Kelly Ripa Pays Tribute to Cicely Tyson Ahead of Posthumous Interview 

Cicely Tyson
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In one of her last appearances before she died, Tyson joined the hosts of 'Live With Kelly and Ryan' to promote her recently published memoir 'Just As I Am.'

Just days after the release of her memoir Just As I Am, Cicely Tyson died at 96, following a long life of achievement in Hollywood.

In one of her last public appearances before she died, the late actress sat down for an interview on Live With Kelly and Ryan. The interview was taped on Wednesday for a planned Friday airing and after Tyson died, Live chose to proceed with airing the interview, albeit with a few onscreen notes about when the segment was recorded and a new video tribute from host Kelly Ripa at the top of the show.

“To say Cicely Tyson was an American legend would be too great an understatement,” a somber Ripa, wearing black, said via video before the pre-taped episode began. “We were honored to speak with her and devastated to learn of her passing. She was a trailblazer who broke barriers for Black actresses and women everywhere. Cicely was a portrait of courage, dignity and grace. We feel very fortunate to share with you her last interview.”

In the interview, Tyson shared tales from her childhood, growing up in New York City. When the legendary actress was just a baby, a stranger stopped her mother, telling her that Tyson was going to be very successful one day, and that she had a “sixth sense.”

And despite her prolific acting career, Tyson revealed that she was a very shy child.  “I was an observer,” Tyson said. “I listened and I learned why people said and did the things that they did.”

Tyson’s long list of accolades includes three Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, a Peabody and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Prior to being nominated for an Oscar for her first lead role, Tyson revealed that she “never thought that [she] would be nominated for an Oscar.”

“I used to watch the event every year,” she remembered. “One night, I watched it and I said, ‘I’m going to sit in that front row one day.’ And I ended up doing that for the role of Rebecca in Sounder.”

But Tyson almost didn’t get cast in the role, as the filmmakers originally believed her to be “too pretty,” “too young,” and “too sexy” to play the role. When they pursued another actress, Tyson didn't give up.

“It [didn’t] belong to her, it [belonged] to me,” she said of the role.

Tyson continued: “I had been an actress my whole career who’s never been paid any money, because I never really worked for money. I worked because there were certain issues that I wished were addressed about myself and my race as a Black woman.”

Ripa and Ryan Seacrest even asked Tyson about staying healthy, in an eerie coincidence, and the actress said she never smoked, drank or did drugs.

“When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was so stunned by that that I became a vegetarian, and I’ve been that most of my life,” she said.

As Tyson’s interview came to a close, Ripa and Seacrest expressed their love and thanks to their guest.

“Everybody's crying,” Ripa said. “You’ve made our producers cry because they are so moved to know that you are watching our little show. We appreciate it more than we can say.”