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Sidney Poitier Dies at 94
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Sidney Poitier inspired those whom he worked with, including Stephen Perry. The now 73-year-old actor was just a young boy when he co-starred alongside the late Hollywood icon -- who died Thursday at the age of 94 -- in 1961's A Raisin in the Sun.
Perry portrayed Travis Younger, the son of Poitier's character, Walter Lee Younger, and recalled how the legendary actor inspired everyone on set, and made all feel welcomed.
"I've been knowing him a long time, over 62 years," Perry tells ET. "I have great memories, a couple of them. I was so honored when he invited me to USC to be a part of his being honored by the school and he asked me to be a part of his history, I'll never forget that."
"And when we would meet on the set, whatever time of day or evening, when we saw each other, we would act like cowboys, since I was a little guy," he continues. "And we would draw our imaginary pistols at each other. So I would always remember that as well."
Perry also remembers a powerful and poignant moment between him and Poitier while walking through the Hollywood studios.
"When I worked with him, the only Black people on the lot was our cast and the shoeshine man, and I remember him speaking and tipping the shoeshine man and embracing that person. I was a little boy and I could recognize we're the only Black people here," he reflects. "And Poitier, he didn't forget that man that was shining shoes as we walked around the lot. But Poitier recognized that the shoeshine man was his brother, was his mankind."
That respect translated to his work on set and how he treated his fellow cast members, Perry adds. "He [had quite a sense of humor]. He made it comfortable for me with his sense of humor and warmth. I felt hugged, I felt his arm around my shoulder," he says. "I always felt a part of the cast."
As for Perry's first impression of Poitier, it was, "I'd like to be him when I grow up."
"Just a consummate professional. I was a kid, there were a cast of people who were there before me, and Sidney made me feel welcomed to that group of people," he shares. "I was the new kid in the cast as well, for him to embrace me like he did, certainly I knew that I was the new kid. They made me feel welcome."
Perry says he not only learned to be a professional from Poitier -- from always be on time, to know your lines and be honorable -- but he also had much admiration for him, especially seeing how Poitier made a name for himself after growing up poor in the Bahamas.
"He came from such a deprived upbringing in the Caribbean that he pulled himself up like no one that I've ever met before," Perry expresses, touching on Poitier's legacy. "This man's struggle was more different than anybody that you or I know. [He] struggled to make it and be accepted. He came here with a dialect from another country and he learned to read and speak English the way we speak it in America. He studied hard to change that dialect…Hollywood, Broadway, had very little to offer and I could just remember him talking to me about how poor he was and what the struggle was like."
An honor to work alongside such a beloved actor and activist, Perry notes that their relationship was that of father and son.
"Well, little old for a father now, but certainly growing up it was a father-son relationship," he cracks. "He and Sammy Davis Jr. watched out for me, they made me comfortable. We're talking 60 years ago and these were two of the biggest stars, Black stars in Hollywood, and both of them took me as their adopted sons."
For more on Poitier and his incredible legacy, see below.