Cicely Tyson: A journey home

Last Updated 10:14 a.m. ET

(CBS News) Cicely Tyson is an actress whose latest role is all about going home . . .in more ways than one. With Lee Cowan we'll be going along:


Just outside the small town of Wharton, Texas, sits an old abandoned farmhouse. It's a relic of an age gone by, forgotten except by time.

Until recently -- when Broadway paid a visit.

Academy Award-nominated actress Cicely Tyson came all the way out here not as a tourist, but as a sleuth of sorts, to research her latest role.

"My gratification in working comes from the preparation and the building of the character," Tyson told Cowan.

Turns out that old farmhouse is a character, too.

Tyson stars in the revival of the 1953 drama, "The Trip to Bountiful." She play Mother Watts, a woman in the twilight of her life who longs to leave the big city of Houston and return to her childhood home of Bountiful.

Bountiful existed only in the mind's eye of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Horton Foote.

It was his daughter, Hallie, who guided Tyson on her mission to uncover the subtleties of the role.

Actress Cicely Tyson walks with Lee Cowan in Wharton, Texas, where playwright Horton Foote was raised.
CBS News

The play came from this land -- where her father grew up. Horton Foote was raised in Wharton, and lived there off and on until he died in 2009.

"In here is where he used to write," Hallie Foote said, showing her father's office to Tyson and Cowan.

"I am really privileged," Tyson said.

"He just would have loved you, you were his kind of actor," said Hallie (an actress herself).

"Well, hopefully I'll do it justice!"

Out of all the roles Tyson has played, it is this one that haunted her, ever since she first saw the 1986 movie of "The Trip to Bountiful," starring Geraldine Page.

Page won the Oscar for her role, and Tyson never forgot the performance.

A quarter-century later, when her chance came to play it on stage, she knew she had to make her own trip to Texas to really understand the part.

Was there anything specific she was looking for, asked Cowan. "You're just waiting for the town to sort of speak to you?"

"I am just absorbing everything that's here, everything," Tyson replied.

It's a long way from her days growing up in Harlem, where her mother -- a very religious woman -- thought the world of modeling and acting was a den of iniquity, so much so she kicked Tyson out of the house after her daughter landed her first role.

"My mother didn't talk to me for two years," Tyson said.

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