Della Reese

Performer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her two-hour Archive interview, Della Reese (1931-2017) speaks about her start as a singer at age thirteen touring with gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. She talks about the struggles in her early career (and such highlights as touring with Nat King Cole). She touches upon her first appearances on television, notably on The Ed Sullivan Show, on which she appeared 17 times. She talks about her appearances on The Merv Griffin Show and The Mike Douglas Show, and how both hosts broke barriers for African-Americans in television. She speaks in great detail about her own talk/variety series The Della Reese Show, commenting on markets the show played in and listing memorable guests. She describes her roles on the sitcoms Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter, joining both series mid-run. Reese recounts the time when, in October 1980 during a taping of the Tonight Show, she suffered a brain aneurysm. She describes her work as a regular on the series The Royal Family and relates the story of the tragic demise of series star Redd Foxx, after a collapse on the set. Finally, she discusses the series for which she is most identified, Touched By An Angel, elaborating on the spiritual nature of the show, identifying memorable guest stars, and commenting on how CBS viewed the show. Beth Cochran conducted the interview on June 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA.

"People need something to help them with their lives. In 'Touched by an Angel,' we didn't tell you what to do. If you were distraught and at a place where you felt there was nothing else to do, we would make a suggestion: 'Did you ever think about it like this? It doesn't have to be that way. You can change your mind and change your life.' It gave people at home, in the privacy of their homes, a chance to know that they too, could change their minds and change their life."

Highlights
Della Reese on working with Nat King Cole
01:40
Della Reese on making her television debut on The Soupy Sales Show, and on appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
04:04
Della Reese on suffering an aneurysm while working on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:04
Della Reese on appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:55
Della Reese on appearing in the feature "Harlem Nights," and on starring on The Royal Family with Redd Foxx
12:39
Della Reese on Touched by an Angel taking on serious issues
01:59
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early life and influences; on meeting and touring with Mahalia Jackson; on working with Nat King Cole
14:04
On landing her first recording contract; on the first time she saw television and on appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show; on appearing on several talk and variety shows, including The Merv Griffin Show
13:09
On appearing on The Hollywood Squares, The Mod Squad, and The Mike Douglas Show; on her talk show Della; on appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
15:51
On appearing as herself on Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx; on appearing on Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter; on suffering an aneurysm while working on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
14:42

Chapter 2

On her guest-appearance on The Love Boat with Carol Channing and Ethel Merman; on guest-starring on various shows; on starring in The Royal Family with Redd Foxx
18:14
on guest-starring on Picket Fences and Designing Women; on starring as "Tess" on Touched by an Angel; on shooting Touched by an Angel on location in Salt Lake City, and on working with Roma Downey
13:48
On the Touched by an Angel theme song, and on singing on the show; on the cast and guest-stars of Touched by an Angel, and on the show almost being cancelled; on Touched by an Angel taking on serious issues
10:57
On various awards for Touched by an Angel; on specific episodes of Touched by an Angel; on time slot and cast changes for Touched by an Angel, and on the end of the show
13:52
On various people she worked with in her career; on keeping on working as she got older, and on using her celebrity for various causes
04:02

Chapter 3

On using her celebrity to help with causes, and on being a minister; on her husband and her family, and on minorities in the industry; on career achievements and regrets, mentors, and how she'd like to be remembered
15:00
Shows

A-Team, The

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Della Reese on guest-starring on The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, Night Court, and MacGyver
03:52

Chico and the Man

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Della Reese on appearing on Chico and the Man, and the cast including Freddie Prinze, Jack Albertson, and Scatman Crothers
07:53

Della

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Della Reese on her talk show Della
07:33

Designing Women

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Della Reese on guest-starring on Designing Women
00:46

Ed Sullivan Show, The aka Toast of the Town

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Della Reese on making her television debut on The Soupy Sales Show, and on appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
04:04

Hollywood Squares, The

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Della Reese on appearing on The Hollywood Squares
01:49

Love Boat, The

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Della Reese on her guest-appearance on The Love Boat with Carol Channing and Ethel Merman
01:43

MacGyver

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Della Reese on guest-starring on The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, Night Court, and MacGyver
03:52

Merv Griffin Show, The

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Della Reese on appearing on several talk and variety shows, including The Merv Griffin Show
03:51

Mike Douglas Show, The

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Della Reese on appearing on The Mike Douglas Show
00:41

Mod Squad, The

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Della Reese on guest-starring on The Mod Squad, and on making the transition from singing to acting
02:53

Night Court

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Della Reese on guest-starring on The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, Night Court, and MacGyver
03:52

Picket Fences

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Della Reese on guest-starring on Picket Fences
01:55

Royal Family, The

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Della Reese on appearing in the feature "Harlem Nights," and on starring on The Royal Family with Redd Foxx
12:39

Sanford and Son

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Della Reese on appearing as herself on Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx
02:13

Soupy Sales Show, The

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Della Reese on making her television debut on The Soupy Sales Show, and on appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
04:04

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Della Reese on appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:55
Della Reese on suffering an aneurysm while working on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:04

Touched By an Angel

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Della Reese on starring as "Tess" on Touched by an Angel
07:35
Della Reese on shooting Touched by an Angel on location in Salt Lake City, and on working with Roma Downey
03:32
Della Reese on the Touched by an Angel theme song, and on singing on the show
01:51
Della Reese on the cast and guest-stars of Touched by an Angel, and on the show almost being cancelled
07:07
Della Reese on Touched by an Angel taking on serious issues
01:59
Della Reese on various awards for Touched by an Angel
01:26
Della Reese on the 100th episode of Touched by an Angel, and various other episodes
07:03
Della Reese on time slot and cast changes for Touched by an Angel, and on the end of the show
05:20

Welcome Back, Kotter

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Della Reese on appearing on Welcome Back, Kotter
01:32

227

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Della Reese on guest-starring on The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, Night Court, and MacGyver
03:52
Topics

Civil Rights Movement

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Della Reese on dealing with racism in the music industry
00:49

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Della Reese on her mentors, and how she'd like to be remembered
00:59

Fame and Celebrity

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Della Reese on continuing to work as she got older, and on using her celebrity for various causes
01:58

Historic Events and Social Change

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Della Reese on dealing with racism in the music industry
00:49

Pivotal Career Moments

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Della Reese on her mentors, and how she'd like to be remembered
00:59

Pop Culture

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Della Reese on continuing to work as she got older, and on using her celebrity for various causes
01:58
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

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Della Reese on guest-starring on The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, Night Court, and MacGyver
03:52

Comedy Series

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Della Reese on her guest-appearance on The Love Boat with Carol Channing and Ethel Merman
01:43
Della Reese on guest-starring on The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, Night Court, and MacGyver
03:52

Drama Series

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Della Reese on starring as "Tess" on Touched by an Angel
35:56
People

Jack Albertson

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Della Reese on appearing on Chico and the Man, and the cast including Freddie Prinze, Jack Albertson, and Scatman Crothers
07:53

Muhammad Ali

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Della Reese on working with Ossie Davis and Muhammad Ali
00:55

Johnny Carson

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Della Reese on appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:55

Carol Channing

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Della Reese on her guest-appearance on The Love Boat with Carol Channing and Ethel Merman
01:43

Nat King Cole

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Della Reese on working with Nat King Cole
01:40

Scatman Crothers

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Della Reese on appearing on Chico and the Man, and the cast including Freddie Prinze, Jack Albertson, and Scatman Crothers
07:53

Ossie Davis

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Della Reese on working with Ossie Davis and Muhammad Ali

Mike Douglas

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Della Reese on appearing on The Mike Douglas Show
00:41

Redd Foxx

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Della Reese on appearing as herself on Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx
02:13
Della Reese on appearing in the feature "Harlem Nights," and on starring on The Royal Family with Redd Foxx
12:39

Merv Griffin

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Della Reese on appearing on several talk and variety shows, including The Merv Griffin Show
03:51

Mahalia Jackson

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Della Reese on meeting and touring with Mahalia Jackson
02:39

James Earl Jones

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Della Reese on working with James Earl Jones
00:24

Angela Lansbury

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Della Reese on working with Angela Lansbury and Natalie Cole
00:45

Ethel Merman

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Della Reese on her guest-appearance on The Love Boat with Carol Channing and Ethel Merman
01:43

Freddie Prinze

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Della Reese on appearing on Chico and the Man, and the cast including Freddie Prinze, Jack Albertson, and Scatman Crothers
07:53

Ed Sullivan

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Della Reese on making her television debut on The Soupy Sales Show, and on appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
04:04

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