There are a few times in your life that you can count as truly remarkable. The day you get to chat with someone that you have admired for years can count as one of those days.
I had the pleasure of speaking to the incomparable star of stage and screen Ms. Diahann Carroll recently. She opened up about her astonishing life, her time on Star Wars, and her current role on the USA hit White Collar.
Q: As the first black woman to star in your own TV show, what are your feelings about how it’s changed for, not just black women, but for minority women, today?
D. Carroll: Well, I would have to say that I have a positive feeling about that. There are so many shows on the air that I’m not really familiar, but I do believe that the stereotypical woman that was dominating television when I started, we’ve done away with that, for all of but what we call third world women—people—and that’s very gratifying that we’ve done that. The integrating is still not on a level that I would like to see it, but I do think it’s coming. I do feel that we are trying and that it’s getting better.
Q: You think we still have a long way to go?
D. Carroll: Oh, indeed. Yes, we do.
Q: How did the role come about on White Collar?
D. Carroll: The creator, actually, is the person who approached us about doing this role and he really understood the period of time that was—my character, June—that was her hey-day and I thought, well, this is going to be really great fun because it goes back to the period of the Rat Pack and she was, obviously, a part of it to the degree where she was married to one of the musicians, or—it’s not exactly clear what he wants to do with that area of it and that’s another thing that I love—the creativity as you go along. That’s how she meets the main character, getting rid of some of the clothing that she has kept, her memorabilia from that period that was a wonderful time in her life, but actually, he has a great feeling for that period of time, and so it’s been, really, a joy being there and doing it.
Q: Could you tell us anything about June? What’s going to be happening with her on the remainder of the season of White Collar?
D. Carroll: June is, at this moment, enjoying her relationship with her new found friend and I think that they’re just getting, really, to know each other under all circumstances and she trusts him and is fascinated by him and also his friend. Wille Garson, who plays Mozzie, he’s a wonderful character. I think all of it together is something that I’m enjoying having to relate to that.
Q: It’s fun to see that relationship with Matt Bomer. I was wondering, is he as good looking in real life as he is on TV?
D. Carroll: If it’s possible, he’s better looking in real life and also very charming, and I think this is going to catapult him into the kind of stardom that he deserves. He is very hard-working and it’s a delight to watch him in front of the camera. I think the character is perfect for him. He is really a bad boy who has good instincts and he looks the part. I’m enjoying it very much.
Q: If there was one thing you could tell your fans from White Collar about your character that they would find interesting, what would it be?
D. Carroll: I think the relationship with Matt is very interesting and it’s something that I see in my life, constantly, and that is women who are no longer young seem to find young men interesting and amusing, whereas they were not as interesting and amusing when I was young, and I think that happens to most women. We can afford that kind of relationship at this age.
Q: Are we going to get a glimpse of your musical side on White Collar?
D. Carroll: I don’t know. We have thought about it. We’ve never brought that conversation to a conclusion, but it would please me. We’d just have to find out how and where it makes sense, if our writers can find that.
Q: I noticed White Collar has become a real hit with fans. I just want to know, what is it about the show that you think draws in the viewers?
D. Carroll: Oh, so many things and not only is Matt beautiful, and his partner Tim, is a very handsome man also, the writing is outstanding, I think, and the look of it, it brings you into it immediately. You want to know what is going on in that set and you want to know who these people are, that operate in that—it’s a very—it grabs you, as we say on the … It’s a grabber and, once again, I must make comment about the writing. It’s really wonderful.
Q: how much will June factor into the remaining episodes for this season and will she return next season?
D. Carroll: Yes she has some very interesting things to do this season. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag. She has lots of things to do.
Q: Is there anything that you still have yet to accomplish?
D. Carroll: That’s a great question. I appreciate that question and I really have not done it all, but, I mean, in terms of—I’ve done theater and television and film and nightclubs, that is true, but I really would love another opportunity to do something as fascinating as Dynasty was, on television. I really enjoyed doing that and I’d like to see something like that come about again. Something that is totally absurd and fun.
Q: What would you say is one of the most important lessons that you’ve learned, throughout your career? Is there any advice you would share with an aspiring actor or actress?
D. Carroll: The lesson that I would hope everyone would learn quite early in their career is don’t take it personally. Whatever it is that happens, you’re accepted for a role or rejected for a role of whatever, don’t take it personally. It’s part of the business and the person that is either hiring or firing—that’s their business. That’s what they are there for and it has nothing to do with how you feel about … It has to do with someone else’s perception of should you, or can you, do this particular part, so just don’t take it personally,. The business is really about rejection, so don’t take it personally.
Q: You are a role model, a pioneer in your craft, and have taken Joan Collins and cancer, and slapped them both. What else do you wish to conquer?
D. Carroll: Well, I don’t know, to tell you the truth. Living day-to-day is quite a feat, I feel, and I’m enjoying it and getting something out of it and putting something into it is a lot to do. I’ve been doing it now for—it will soon be 75 years, in July, and I’m pretty satisfied. I’ve also had four marriages that I went through, which is, also, difficult to do, so I don’t know. I’m feeling satisfied and so everyday—not satisfied to the extent that I’m not making—I’m still making the effort and the effort to do what? Everything.
Q: Do you have any plans on doing more theater in the future.
D. Carroll: I thought about doing theater and I don’t think Im going to be able to do eight performances a week. That’s what’s required and I know lots of women my age who do it with great ease. I don’t know. Maybe, Im just too … or something but eight performances a week … but I do thank you for asking, you know, because I had a wonderful theater career. I enjoyed it very much and from musicals to straight drama, and that’s not always offered, but I’ve had that experience, but I don’t know that that’ll be again, in my lifetime.
Q: You were part of the Star Wars Holiday Special. Can you talk a little bit about how you got that role, your feelings about the holiday Special, and if you’ve had any Star Wars fan experiences regarding that role?
D. Carroll: You know, I think it’s the biggest secret in the world. I don’t know that … ever was, much less that I was ever a part of it. I think it was co-produced by a friend of mine, who called and asked if I would be a part of it and I had never done anything like that before. The fascination with Star Wars and what compiled Star Wars was sort of “in the air” and I was intrigued by it and, yes, I decided to be a part of it. As I recall, I was practically nude on … That’s my recollection.
Q: Have any Star Wars fans approached you and asked you about that, or any of that interaction?
D. Carroll: No, the only thing I’ve ever been asked is “When are you coming back?”
Q: Do you have an answer?
D. Carroll: “’I don’t know” is my answer.
A very special thank you to the legendary Dihann Carroll for taking the time to speak with us. Remember to tune into White Collar, Tuesdays at 10:00, 9:00 Central on USA Network .