Tracee Ellis Ross Recalls the ‘Most Moving’ Moment of Her Mother Diana in 'The Wiz'

by Stacy Lambe 4:45 AM PST, December 02, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

While NBC’s The Wiz Live is technically an adaptation of the 1975 Tony-winning musical, many fans are probably more familiar with the 1978 film version starring Richard Pryor, Lena Horne, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

As Dorothy, Ross played a shy 24-year-old schoolteacher who finds herself lost in the Land of Oz and relying on the help of her newfound companions, Scarecrow (Jackson), Tin Man (Nipsey Russell), and Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) to find her way home.

While the film was hardly a box office hit, it quickly became a cult classic thanks to the unforgettable musical performances by Jackson and Ross.

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For Diana’s daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, The Wiz holds a particularly special meaning since she was able to spend time on the set as a kid. When asked about her favorite moment from the film, she tells ETonline it was when her mother is singing “Home.”

“That one cut on her face is probably one of the most moving acting moments I’ve ever seen in my life,” the Black-ish star says. 

The song, which closes out the film, has become one of the musical’s standout numbers. A recorded version by Stephanie Mills, who originated Dorothy in the stage production, went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart in 1989 -- a decade after the show closed.

The mother-daughter duo recently enjoyed a moment together on stage when Diana asked Tracee to join her to perform a rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Lady Sings the Blues.” 

“I think the last time my mom asked me to sing I was 5 or 6 years old,” she wrote on Facebook. (That would have been around the time she was on set of her mother’s film.) “My favorite part was me burying my head into her shoulder. It has been ages since I’ve hidden so deeply in my mother’s embrace and it was awesome.”

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Even though Tracee or her mother are not directly involved in NBC’s production, the actress is nevertheless excited for the latest version of the musical starring Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Amber Riley, David Alan Grier, Uzo Aduba, Common, and family friend, Elijah Kelley.

The Wiz Live premieres on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.