WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Maya Angelou was best known for her writing and performing her poems, but she was also an accomplished actress, appearing in films and TV shows, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Two of her most notable roles came in 1977, when she appeared in the acclaimed miniseries “Roots,” in which she memorably played Kunta Kinte’s grandmother, and in the variety show “The Richard Pryor Special?”
In that special, she played the wife of Willie the Wino, one of Pryor’s most popular characters, a genial alcoholic. But while the first half of the sketch plays Willie’s antics largely for laughs, the second half, in which he staggers home and passes out on the couch, takes a dramatic turn, with a powerful soliloquy by Angelou about the hardships of loving an addict.
Angelou’s other TV work included a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey on the OWN show “Super Soul Sunday” that aired last year; a 2006 episode of the Sundance series “Iconoclasts” that was filmed in Winston-Salem, with comedian Dave Chappelle interviewing her; a 2008 appearance in the PBS documentary “African-American Lives 2” by Henry Louis Gates Jr., who told me in a phone interview at the time that Angelou was “the queen of the African-American literary tradition” and a dear friend; and, on a more whimsical note, “Sesame Street.”
On Twitter Wednesday, the producers of “Sesame Street” said they were “saddened by the passing of our friend Maya Angelou. Thank you for all you’ve done, and for all the hugs.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Angelou gleefully hugging Herry Monster, a character from the show.
Angelou was also featured in a 2005 Hallmark Channel special in which she invited viewers into her Winston-Salem home at Christmas. I had the honor of speaking with her on the phone about the special and the significance of gathering with friends and family for the holidays.
“The closest you come to sincerity is in your own home,” she said during the interview. “Home is where you tell the truth, where your true self is. … We have a lot of laughter and some poignancies because there are some people missing this season who were there last season. We send a prayer up to God for their souls, and that they existed at all and were in your life.”
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HBO is getting back in business with Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green.
The three alumni from UNC School of the Arts are returning to HBO for “Vice Principals,” a new comedy series about “a high school and the people who almost run it, the vice principals.”
The trio previously worked on “Eastbound & Down,” a comedy filmed in Wilmington with McBride as a bombastic ex-baseball star.
HBO has ordered 18 episodes of the series, with a debut date and number of episodes in each season to be announced later.
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New releases from the Warner Archives (www.wbshop.com) line of manufacture-on-demand DVDs include the first season of “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues,” a 1990s syndicated series with David Carradine playing the grandson of the character he played in the 1970s “Kung Fu” series; “Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles,” an HBO stand-up comedy special starring the caustic comedian; and, on Blu-ray, “Longmire Season One & Two,” with high-definition episodes of A&E’s hit mystery series, which starts its third season at 10 p.m. Monday.