×

Oprah Winfrey Recalls the First Time Toni Morrison Was a Guest on Her Show

“The very first time I had her on the ‘Oprah’ show, she said to me, ‘I’ve always known I was gallant.’ I was like, ‘Who the hell knows they’re gallant?'” Oprah Winfrey told reporters of her late friend and creative collaborator Toni Morrison on Tuesday night at the premiere of OWN’s original series “David Makes Man” in Los Angeles. “Her sense of confidence and self-assurance and nobility is what impressed me the most.”

A day after the death of the groundbreaking Nobel Prize-winning author, Winfrey reminisced about Morrison’s first appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the power of her words. “She said, ‘what I realize is that what every child really wants is to know, do your eyes light up when I enter the room?’ ”

Winfrey, who told Variety that she had yet to be informed of memorial plans for Morrison, continued, “Those words, I think, resonated. I could see it resonated with every woman, everyone just did a collective ‘Ahh, yes,’ and thought about when children show up in the room. It’s not just about your children, it’s your children, your grandchildren, your lover, your husband, anybody who you care about. That’s all they are looking to see. Do your eyes light up when I enter the room? So that’s the great memory and gift that I think that she gave to me and to the audience. I think people will read her books, they will feel whatever they feel, they will experience literature at its finest, but do your eyes light up when I enter the room?”

Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Moonlight” and “David Makes Man” creator Tarell Alvin McCraney also paid tribute to Morrison. “I stand on her legacy,” McCraney told Variety. “The foundation that she laid as an artist, as a literary artist, can’t be quantified. I can try, I can really try, but all I can say is she brought an interiority that looked at black life in a way that is so beautiful and profound that we will always be counting our blessings for having her.”

McCraney’s first television foray, “David Makes Man,” is a lyrical drama that tells the story of a gifted teenager from the South Florida projects who struggles to balance a promising academic future with his life on the streets. Akili McDowell, who plays the titular character of David, spoke about the visibility that Winfrey’s name alone as executive producer brings to the series.

“It’s definitely cool to have your boss be a legend,” McDowell told Variety. “Just how important she is and how influential she is across the world.”

“David Makes Man” showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence said she was impressed with Winfrey’s level of personal involvement in the show’s production. “It’s been incredible,” Harris-Lawrence said. “I mean, it’s Oprah and for a little bit… you think she’s just going to be Oprah and she’s going to be like the godmother. No, she’s involved. We had conversations with her about casting, makeup, production design — she is definitely in there as a producer. So that was wonderful to be able to be able to talk to her about all those things from story down to editing cuts. It has been an absolute dream.”

McCraney credited co-executive producer Michael B. Jordan with believing in the project early on and driving him from pitch meeting to pitch meeting. Winfrey said the pitch for “David Makes Man” was the best one she had ever heard in her life.

Jordan told Variety that he believes audiences will be immediately drawn to the authenticity of “David Makes Man.” “The amazing cast, the storytelling, the cinematography is awesome. We had some dream-like sequences that were really, really visual and feel very, very cinematic. I think it’s an honest representation of characters shown on TV, an honest portrayal of what that community looks like, what that Florida community looks like, and the representation of young black and brown boys throughout the entire world that have gone through similar situations. I think that a lot of people will connect with the characters on the show from all walks of life. I think that is truly important.”

“David Makes Man” premieres Aug. 14 on the OWN Network.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar

    'Other People's Houses' Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar in the Works at Fox

    Sarah Michelle Gellar is looking to reunite with “Ringer” creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder on a dramedy co-produced by Fox Entertainment and UTV. Fox is developing “Other People’s Houses,” Variety has learned, and has given the project a script commitment. Charmelo and Snyder will write and executive produce, while Neil Meron, Sarah Michelle Gellar [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Jamie-Lynn Sigler'Woke Up This Morning: The

    ‘Sopranos’ Cast Members to Present at VMAs in New Jersey

    The VMAs will reunite “Sopranos” castmates for the big awards show happening Monday night in Newark, New Jersey — right next door to America’s favorite crime family.  Drea De Matteo (who played the mobster girlfriend-turned F.B.I. informant Adriana La Cerva), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (who played Tony Soprano’s precocious daughter Meadow Soprano) and Vincent Pastore (who played [...]

  • The L Word

    'The L Word: Generation Q' Teaser Unites Original Cast, New Characters

    Showtime has released the first look at the next generation of “The L Word” and its new cast including Rosanny Zayas, Jacqueline Toboni, Sepideh Moafi, Arienne Mandi, and Micah Lee. Along with some of the original cast, including Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, and Katherine Moennig, the series sequel picks up where its creator Ilene Chaiken [...]

  • ACCESS HOLLYWOOD -- Season: 24 --

    'Access Hollywood' Franchise Adds New Half-Hour Show

    After a spate of recent layoffs and the departure of host Natalie Morales, “Access Hollywood” is extending its brand with a new half-hour series. “All Access,” premiering Sept. 9, will take an in-depth look into the national headlines and look to uncover the real-life drama occurring in everyday places, exploring a blend of true crime [...]

  • YouTube TV Adds Subscription Options for

    YouTube TV Adds Subscription Options for AMC Networks' Acorn TV, UMC

    Google’s YouTube TV now offers two more add-on channels to subscribers, under an expanded pact with AMC Networks: British TV service Acorn TV and UMC (Urban Movie Channel), which features a selection of black TV and film titles. Acorn TV’s add-on channel is now available via YouTube TV for $6 per month and UMC is [...]

  • Haunting of Hill House

    'Haunting of Hill House' Writers Making Horror Series 'Red Rose' for BBC

    The BBC is teaming with Michael and Paul Clarkson, the twin brother writers behind the second season of Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House,” for a new horror thriller, the U.K. pubcaster announced Thursday at the Edinburgh TV Festival. “Red Rose” is being produced for the BBC’s U.K. youth-skewing online platform BBC Three. The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content