On Friday, Apple TV+ will debut “Sidney,” a documentary that reflects on the legacy of Sidney Poitier, an actor whose career paved a path for Black actors and filmmakers and galvanized viewers.
In a recent interview with Sheinelle Jones on TODAY, Oprah Winfrey, who produced the documentary, detailed what it was like to be such a viewer.
In 1964, she was a 10-year-old watching as Poitier accepted the Academy Award for best actor for his role in “Lilies of the Field."
Winfrey told Sheinelle how Poitier impacted her own career as both her hero and mentor, one who graciously understood the nuance of being a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
“I had a conversation with him about, ‘What do you do with all the criticism and trying to be everything for everybody?’" Winfrey said. "And he said, ‘My dear, it’s challenging when you’re carrying other people’s dreams.’”
Poitier, a Bahamian-American actor, died in January at 94. His roles in “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” (1967) widened the scope of cinema.
In the years after his Oscar win, Poitier was hailed both for his acting roles and his activism on behalf of the Black community.
In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Still, despite the obligations that came with his stardom, Poitier's daughters said he always played the part of a fun and loving father.
Three of Poitier’s six daughters — Sherri Poitier, Anika Poitier, and Beverly Poitier-Henderson — took part in Winfrey’s sit-down with Sheinelle.
Pointing out that their father was a “girl dad” before the term became a T-shirt slogan, Sheinelle asked the three sisters what they remembered about their father growing up.
“We used to travel a lot. We’d be in a hotel room and be bored,” Anika Poitier recalled. “And we would put makeup on him and do his hair with bows and barrettes. And then we would call room service and make him go to the door and answer it. He loved to just make us laugh and giggle.”
When asked what they missed the most about their father, Sherri Poitier reminisced about his laugh.
“When he’d clap his hands and fool around and yell,” she said. “I just miss his laughter.”
“This is gonna make me cry,” Anika Poitier added. “I miss hugging him. And sometimes I can still ... there’s muscle memory, you can still feel the person, even though they’re not here ... I miss talking to him. I still talk to him.”
Asked about the upcoming documentary, Beverly Poitier-Henderson described it as the "'Amen' after a sermon.”
“You guys captured the essence of him in the film,” Anika Poitier said.
“Sidney,” produced by Winfrey and Derik Murray in close collaboration with the Poitier family, debuts Friday, Sept. 23, on Apple TV+. It features interviews with Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Spike Lee, Lenny Kravitz, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford and others.