Michael Clarke Duncan Tribute

Tavis pays tribute to the Oscar-nominated actor, often called the “gentle giant.”

Best known for his role in The Green Mile, for which he won a best supporting actor Oscar nod, Michael Clarke Duncan came a long way from Chicago's South Side. Before making a name for himself on the silver screen, he dug ditches for a city utility and worked as a celebrity bodyguard. His film credits include Armageddon, The Whole Nine Yards, Planet of the Apes, Talladega Nights and Green Lantern. On TV, he appeared on several series and, in a performance that received critical acclaim, the Showtime original drama, They Call Me Sir. Duncan was often described as a big man with a big voice and a big smile.


Tavis: Over the Labor Day weekend we were saddened to learn of the passing of actor Michael Clark Duncan. In 1999 he turned in an unforgettable performance opposite Tom Hanks in “The Green Mile,” a role that would earn him an Academy Award nomination.

When Duncan joined us some time ago on this program we talked about his unlikely path to Hollywood from the South Side of Chicago and the role his mother played in steering him away from a career in sports.

[Begin previously recorded interview]

Michael Clark Duncan: I would have to say that it all began with my mother. She wanted to be an actress when she was younger and had my grandmother or great-grandmother pushed her in a way to become an actress, she would have been just like Dorothy Dandridge.

So when my mother saw me, she said, “Well, okay, he’s talented, I’m going to push him in that direction,” but I pushed back. I wanted to play basketball or I wanted to play football. I did not think that acting was going to be a lifestyle for me.

Tavis: Did you play?

Duncan: Yes, I did. I played basketball at (unintelligible) state university and actually, I was going to be on the football team, but I told my mother and she told me to quit, so that’s another story for another time.

Tavis: “Baby, I don’t want you to get hurt, baby.”

Duncan: (Makes noise)

Tavis: Was that it? Was that it?

Duncan: Yeah.

Tavis: See? We all got a Black mama. (Unintelligible) “Baby, I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Duncan: But you’re on a Black campus –

Tavis: Yeah, I know.

Duncan: – and your mama – come on, now, Tavis, you know how that is, man.

Tavis: And you’re four-foot-eleven mama.

Duncan: Yeah.

Tavis: Who’s under a hundred pounds. (Laughter)

Duncan: And I’m at Mississippi, all the guys are like, “Oh, his mama said he can’t play.”

Tavis: In Mississippi. Yeah, yeah.

Duncan: Thank you. So it was a thing that my mother always taught me to go for your goals and never give up no matter what they are, and I started believing that later on in life. I didn’t believe it right then. I just thought my mother was talking, really.

But as I grew older and found myself in certain situations, everything my mother had ever taught me came true. She told me never smoke. Never do drugs. Never drink. Those things I have never done in my life.

[End previously recorded interview]

Tavis: Michael Clark Duncan, gone too soon at the age of 54. That’s our show for tonight. Until next time, good night from Los Angeles, thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: September 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm