Ossie Davis

Actor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his over two-hour Archive interview, Ossie Davis (1917-2005) speaks of his early years as an actor starting out in the theater. He discusses his early television appearances on Showtime U.S.A.: "Green Pastures", Kraft Television Theatre: "The Emperor Jones", and CBS Television Workshop: "Brown Girl, Brownstones". He speaks of writing and starring in the play "Purlie Victorious" and its feature film adaptation. Davis discusses his many acting roles on stage, in the movies, and on television in series including The Defenders, Hallmark Hall of Fame, and Evening Shade and the miniseries King and Roots: The Next Generations. He also discusses his work as a film director, beginning with "Cotton Comes to Harlem." He speaks of his collaborations with his wife, Ruby Dee, including their radio show "With Ossie and Ruby." Harold Dow conducted the interview on October 26, 1999 in New Rochelle, NY.

All views expressed by interviewees are theirs alone and not necessarily those of the Television Academy.

"Art has a deep responsibility, social, cultural, and otherwise. And that the basic motivation for the creation of art is, in a sense, to meet those responsibilities. Now, it doesn't mean that you cannot express yourself in any way you want to, but it takes place in a social context, whether you mean it to do so or not."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Ossie Davis on witnessing Marian Anderson sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
04:18
Ossie Davis on working as an extra at NBC's New York studios
02:05
Ossie Davis on the impact Roots had on American culture, and on his and Ruby Dee's first meeting with Alex Haley
04:54
Ossie Davis on the then-future of television
04:18
Ossie Davis on how opportunities for African Americans in television have changed since he started his career
01:32
Ossie Davis briefly on appearing on Car 54, Where Are You?
00:44
Full Interview

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Chapter 1

On his early years and influences; on how his family dealt with racism while he was growing up
On observing his parents and learning how to deal with racism; on his hobbies growing up, including reading; on listening to the radio growing up and how it introduced him to Black music and culture

Chapter 2

On moving to Washington, D.C. for his education; on going to New York City to join a theater company in Harlem
On his life in Harlem in the 1930s; on his experience during World War II
On witnessing Marian Anderson sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; on the importance of taking a stand; on his life being an adventure

Chapter 3

On his earliest impressions of television; on his earliest television appearances, and on the experience of being on television in the early years; on working as an extra at NBC's New York studios
On attempting to be a writer in addition to an actor, and on various early television shows he appeared on; on the effect of the Blacklist on him and fellow performers, and on being called to testify at the HUAC; on joining the Civil Rights Movement along with his wife, Ruby Dee, and on television's role in the movement

Chapter 4

On the creative freedom he and Ruby Dee had on their PBS series With Ossie & Ruby; on the impact Roots had on American culture, and on his and Ruby Dee's first meeting with Alex Haley; on how television aided in the Civil Rights Movement
On his Broadway play "Purlie Victorious"; on appearing on Car 54, Where Are You?, writing an episode of East Side/West Side, and on appearing on The Fugitive, Run for your Life, The Outsider, and Bonanza
On directing the feature film "Cotton Comes to Harlem"; on meeting his wife, Ruby Dee; on the then-future of television

Chapter 5

On his advice to aspiring writers and actors; on how opportunities for African Americans in television have changed since he started his career; on how he would like to be remembered
Shows

Bonanza

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Ossie Davis on guest-starring on Bonanza with Michael Landon
01:12

Car 54, Where Are You?

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Ossie Davis briefly on appearing on Car 54, Where Are You?
00:44

East Side/West Side

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Ossie Davis on writing an episode of East Side/West Side
00:52

Fugitive, The

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Ossie Davis on appearing on The Fugitive
00:50

Outsider, The

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Ossie Davis on his groundbreaking role in The Outsider
01:21

Roots

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Ossie Davis on the impact Roots had on American culture, and on his and Ruby Dee's first meeting with Alex Haley
04:54

Run For Your Life

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Ossie Davis on appearing in three episodes of Run for your Life
00:42

With Ossie & Ruby

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Ossie Davis on the creative freedom he and Ruby Dee had on their series With Ossie & Ruby
01:49
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Ossie Davis on his advice to aspiring writers and actors
01:43

Civil Rights Movement

View Topic
Ossie Davis on joining the Civil Rights Movement along with his wife, Ruby Dee, and on television's role in the movement
07:22
Ossie Davis on how television aided in the Civil Rights Movement
03:39

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ossie Davis on his experience during World War II
02:08
Ossie Davis on joining the Civil Rights Movement along with his wife Ruby Dee, and on television's role in the movement
07:22
Ossie Davis on joining the Civil Rights Movement along with his wife, Ruby Dee, and on television's role in the movement
07:22
Ossie Davis on how television aided in the Civil Rights Movement
03:39
Ossie Davis on how opportunities for African Americans in television have changed since he started his career
01:32

Hollywood Blacklist

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Ossie Davis on the effect of the Blacklist on him and fellow performers, and on being called to testify at the HUAC
06:36

Industry Crossroads

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Ossie Davis on the effect of the Blacklist on him and fellow performers, and on being called to testify at the HUAC
06:36

Representation on Television

View Topic
Ossie Davis on how television aided in the Civil Rights Movement
03:39
Ossie Davis on how opportunities for African Americans in television have changed since he started his career
01:32

Television Industry

View Topic
Ossie Davis on the effect of the Blacklist on him and fellow performers, and on being called to testify at the HUAC
06:36
Ossie Davis on the then-future of television
04:18
Ossie Davis on his advice to aspiring writers and actors
01:43

Underrepresented Voices

View Topic
Ossie Davis on how television aided in the Civil Rights Movement
03:39
Ossie Davis on how opportunities for African Americans in television have changed since he started his career
01:32

War

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Ossie Davis on his experience during World War II
02:08

World War II

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Ossie Davis on his experience during World War II
02:08
Professions

Actor

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Ossie Davis on his advice to aspiring writers and actors
01:43

Performers

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Ossie Davis on his advice to aspiring writers and actors
01:43

Writers

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Ossie Davis on his advice to aspiring writers and actors
01:43
Genres

Comedy Series

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Ossie Davis on appearing on Car 54, Where Are You?
00:44

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Ossie Davis on appearing on The Fugitive
00:50
Ossie Davis on appearing in three episodes of Run for your Life
00:42

Drama Series

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Ossie Davis on writing an episode of East Side/West Side
00:52

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Ossie Davis on the impact Roots had on American culture, and on his and Ruby Dee's first meeting with Alex Haley
04:54
Ossie Davis on his groundbreaking role in The Outsider
01:21

Talk Shows

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Ossie Davis on the creative freedom he and Ruby Dee had on their series With Ossie & Ruby
01:49

Western Series

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Ossie Davis on guest-starring on Bonanza with Michael Landon
01:12
People

Ruby Dee

View Interview Page
Ossie Davis on meeting his wife, Ruby Dee
03:52
Ossie Davis on the creative freedom he and Ruby Dee had on their PBS series With Ossie & Ruby
01:49
Ossie Davis on the impact Roots had on American culture, and on his and Ruby Dee's first meeting with Alex Haley
04:54

Alex Haley

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Ossie Davis on the impact Roots had on American culture, and on his and Ruby Dee's first meeting with Alex Haley
04:54

Michael Landon

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Ossie Davis on guest-starring on Bonanza with Michael Landon
01:12

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