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By Suzanne

Diahann Carroll

Interview with Diahann Carroll of "White Collar"

It was a great thrill to sit in on this conference call with legendary actress Diahann Carroll. She was on TV and in movies all of the time when I was a kid. Most people know her from the ground-breaking show "Julia", but she has done so many amazing projects, you would be surprised to read them all.  She was also on "Dynasty" in the 80's, which I watched fervently!  So I am a big fan of her work.  Listening to her speak was a real treat because of her beautiful voice and also because she is very honest and forthright.

White Collar – Diahann Carroll Q&A Session
February 5, 2010/2:30 p.m. EST


Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the White Collar - Diahann Carroll conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session. As a reminder, this call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Andrea Epstein. Please go ahead.

A. Epstein Hello everybody. Thank you so much for joining our call today. As you know, we have the very lovely and talented Diahann Carroll with us. Diahann plays June on an original series, White Collar, which airs on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. on USA Network. We have a new episode coming up this next Tuesday, I think we are eager and ready to begin, so we'll go ahead and take the first question please.

Moderator Okay, one moment please. The first question comes from the line of Curtis Shaw, who is with Fellowship of Fools. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

C. Shaw Ms. Carroll, how are you today?

D. Carroll I'm very well, thank you.

C. Shaw Wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

D. Carroll It's my pleasure. Thank you.

C. Shaw First of all, I just really loved your role as Burke's mother in Grey's Anatomy. I mean, it brought a whole new depth to Burke's character and his relationship with Christina.

D. Carroll Oh, that's a lovely thing to say. I always feel very good and comforted when someone has taken the time to really understand the character, so I'm delighted to hear that. Thank you.

C. Shaw Of course, but my real question, though, relates to some of your earlier work in 1978. 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.

C. Shaw 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?”

C. Shaw Do you have an answer?

D. Carroll “'I don't know” is my answer.

C. Shaw Wonderful.

D. Carroll Maybe not.

C. Shaw Thank you so much.

D. Carroll My pleasure.

Moderator Okay, thank you. The next question comes from the line of Jim Halterman and Jim Halterman is with Please go ahead. Your line is open.

J. Halterman Hi, Ms. Carroll. Thanks for your time today.

D. Carroll How do you do? It's my pleasure.
J. Halterman I'm doing well. Thank you.

D. Carroll Good.

J. Halterman I wanted to know—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.

J. Halterman That's great, and you know, in your career you seem to have done it all. 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.

J. Halterman All right, we love seeing you back on TV. Best of luck.

D. Carroll Thank you.

Moderator The next question comes from the line of Rosa Cordero with Accidental Sexiness.

R. Cordero Ms. Carroll, thank you so much for speaking with us today. It's an honor to talk to you.

D. Carroll Thank you very much.

R. Cordero I'm really enjoying your character on White Collar. I wanted to know, 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 Television, how has it changed?

R. Cordero Yes.

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.

R. Cordero You think we still have a long way to go?

D. Carroll Oh, indeed. Yes, we do.

R. Cordero One more brief question. 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. The characters are developing into very interesting—I'm trying to think of, the young man with the glasses—

R. Cordero Willie Garson. He plays Mozzie.

D. Carroll Oh, he's a wonderful character and I think—

R. Cordero Oh yes, I love him.

D. Carroll I think all of it together is something that I'm enjoying having to relate to that.

R. Cordero Wonderful. We're really enjoying seeing you again on a television show and I wish you luck. Thank you.
D. Carroll Thank you.

Moderator Next question comes from the line of Christine Nyholm with the Examiner. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

C. Nyholm Hello. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.

D. Carroll Hello. It's my pleasure.

C. Nyholm My question goes to a more serious topic. As a cancer survivor myself, and I know that you're an activist for breast cancer, and have had a personal experience and I understand you have a program coming up about that and I was wondering if you would mind sharing, with us, your thoughts about that.

D. Carroll Any time I have the opportunity to talk, particularly to women who are going through what I experienced, it's always a very gratifying exchange for me and I learned something and I hope that I give them something in return, something they can use, something they can move on, and I think that's one of the best things—one of the perks actually if that can be called a perk—when one knows that they have breast cancer—is the exchange, meeting each other, discussing, making new friends, learning new things that they have done that they can pass along to me, and vice verse, and that's what we will be doing.

C. Nyholm Do you know where that will be airing or broadcasting?

D. Carroll No, I don't. I'm sorry. I hope everyplace.

C. Nyholm Okay, so it's a program that is developing, yes?

D. Carroll Yes. Absolutely.

C. Nyholm Okay, well, and I do enjoy your character on White Collar. 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.

C. Nyholm Thank you very much.

D. Carroll Thank you.

Moderator The next question comes from the line of Icess Fernandez with Writing to Insanity. Please go ahead.

I. Fernandez Ms. Carroll, it's such a pleasure to talk to you today. I'm quite honored.

D. Carroll Thank you very much.

I. Fernandez The question I have, kind of, expands on a question that has already been previously asked. You were around when African Americans were first starting in television, so I was wondering—you were talking about that we needed to be—people of color need to be more integrated in television and you said that that was coming. What can—what are some things that can be done to help facilitate that integration?

D. Carroll I suppose our lives need to be more integrated. We have white communities and black communities and white country clubs and black country clubs. It's very important when we integrate ourselves, and it helps us to have a better understanding of the world, to people all over the world and this is the time in history that we have become very aware of how important that is, so I think it's just really—we have to know each other and work together and play together in order to write about each other.

I. Fernandez That's pretty inspiring, actually.

D. Carroll Well, I certainly hope so. I do, because I believe it's true.

I. Fernandez Let me ask you one more additional question. I'm actually a writer and so I'm always interested to think about what actors think about when they read writing, and so, the question I have for you is what do you look for in a script that helps you identify with your character?

D. Carroll Oh dear, that's a very complicated question. Identify. It can be a negative too, you know, … something that someone has written on the page. It's not always something that you are able to verbalize. It's something that happens intrinsically and also if there's … action to some the action that is required of the character and it moves you in a way that is different from anything else that's on your desk, that's the piece that you will respond to and wish to have as a part of your life and as a part of your legacy. It's something that's inexplicable, really, that's down in your gut and it's moved by something that makes you feel “I'd like to do that, I'd like to be able to say that and make people hear me because I think it's important,” even if it's not—even if it's a negative, it'd still be important, so I think that's as much as I can say about it, because it's something that really is emotional and difficult to verbalize.

I. Fernandez When you were saying negative, were you talking more of negative as far as the role being perceived as negative, or just a gut reaction to what you see on the page, being negative?

D. Carroll If the role is negative on the page, and by negative I can—it can also be not negative to someone else. Someone may have a terrible reaction … someone is playing a whore and someone else may not have that same understanding of the role, so that's why I say, it's such an emotional reaction each time, that it's very hard to say why you want to play a role. It's something you feel—a kinship—and you know that you can make it understood or felt easily by others, I think.

I. Fernandez Wow! Now that, for a writer, is an education. Thank you so very much.

D. Carroll Oh, I thank you. My pleasure.

Moderator Okay, the next question comes from the line of Kristyn Clark with Please go ahead.

K. Clark Hi, Ms. Carroll. Thank you for taking our call today. I wanted to ask you, 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 I think, probably, 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.

K. Clark Great, thank you so much.

Moderator Okay, the next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with the TV Megasite. Please go ahead.

S. Lanoue Hi. Thank you for speaking with us.

D. Carroll Thanks.

S. Lanoue It really is an honor to speak with you. You were mentioning Dynasty and I was wondering, some of your… have gone on to go back to daytime television and I was wondering if you'd ever considered, if there was a good role for you on daytime television—

D. Carroll You know, it's very strange. I have never considered any daytime television role. I don’t know why. I don’t know, maybe it's because they do the same … thing over and over. I don’t know why. But it's never been stimulating to me and I could bite myself for saying that because I know millions of people fall in love with these characters and stay with them 15, 25 years, and that's wonderful. I don’t think I could do that well.

S. Lanoue All right, well thank you. That's a very honest answer.

D. Carroll Okay.

S. Lanoue If there was one thing you could tell your fans from White Collar about your character that they would find surprising, what would it be?

D. Carroll That they would find surprising?

S. Lanoue Or interesting.

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.

S. Lanoue All right. Thank you very much.

D. Carroll You're welcome.

Moderator Okay, the next question comes from the line of Lena Lamoray with Please go ahead. Your line is open.

L. Lamoray Hi, Ms. Carroll.

D. Carroll Hello there.

L. Lamoray 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 Joan Collins and cancer and what else?

L. Lamoray What else do you wish to conquer?

D. Carroll What else? 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 im not making—I'm still making the effort and the effort to do what? Everything.

L. Lamoray 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.

L. Lamoray I would love to see that.

D. Carroll I would, too and I trust them, because the writers are outstanding, and I would trust therm to find the right circumstances, which would make me comfortable.

L. Lamoray Yes. Thank you very much.

D. Carroll Thank you.
Moderator Okay, the next question comes from the line of Amy Harrington with Pop Culture Passionistas. Please go ahead.

D. Carroll Hello.

A. Harrington Hello, Ms. Carroll. Thank you so much for your time today. It's an honor to speak to you. I'm here with my sister Nancy, who is also my writing partner, and we were just wondering—you look as beautiful now as when you started your career and we wanted to know if you had any beauty secrets that you could share with us?

D. Carroll Well, if I look the same as when I started, I would be very disappointed in me. That's a long time ago. I started in the fifties at twenty, and I don't think, that in 2010, that I look the same, however—secrets? I don’t think there are any secrets any more, for anyone's regimen. It's all been laid out there. It's every place. It's on the radio, television, our computers, whatever it is you're looking for, you can certainly find it today. If anything, there's maybe too much information, but, you know, taking care of your skin is not a secret, but it's very important. What you eat, I suppose, is the most important thing that I can say about remaining attractive and healthy. I would only say be very careful with the diet and make sure that you exercise.

A. Harrington Well, thank you for that, and you've obviously had a long and illustrious career in theater, too when … you had any more 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.

A. Harrington Did you prefer one drama over the other … drama?

D. Carroll I can't say that I—it's not as demanding to do a … play, because singing is something that … keeps the body as healthy as possible to sing well, and that doesn't allow for anything except classes and exercising and, well, I think you get the picture, but I like the characters. All of the characters, but if I had to select a character, I would have to say that I did love the … play. I did Agnes of God, and I played the doctor and she was a wonderful experience for me. Just wonderful.

A. Harrington. Right. Well, thank you so much for answering our questions today. We appreciate it.

D. Carroll It's my pleasure. Thank you.

Moderator The next question comes from the line of Troy Rogers with the Please go ahead.

T. Rogers Hi, Ms. Carroll. Thanks for taking the time.

D. Carroll Why deadbolt?

T. Rogers It had a good ring to it, you know, locking down the latest.

D. Carroll Okay. All right.

T. Rogers Thanks for asking. 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.

T. Rogers Excellent. I also what to know, have you learned anything interesting about the FBI, or con men, since being on the show?

D. Carroll No. I knew a great deal about that before, and in particular, con men, but I think every week, we all learn a little something, but more than anything I think the characters—who they are—is more important than the FBI.

T. Rogers All right, and how much will June factor into the remaining episodes for this season and will she return next season?

D. Carroll Well, we'll have to ask the person who … it … but, this season, 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.

T. Rogers Okay, thank you Ms. Carroll.

D. Carroll Thank you.

C. Fehskens Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to once again thank Ms. Carroll for joining us this afternoon. Don't forget to tune into White Collar, Tuesdays at 10:00, 9:00 Central on USA Network and enjoy your weekend, everybody. Thanks for joining us, and thank you.

D. Carroll Thank you, so much. That was great fun.

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