Caryn Elaine Johnson (born November 13, 1955), known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, is a highly successful American actor,note comedian, author, and talk show host. Known for tackling serious issues with a sense of humor, she became the highest-paid actress of all time during her peak in the 1990s. Whoopi's first film appearance was in the movie The Color Purple, where she garnered an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe for her performance as a mistreated African American woman in the Deep South. Five years later, she won both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for her performance in the blockbuster title Ghost.
Her famous roles are as foot-dragging ghost possesee Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, bartender/hat enthusiast Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and showgirl-turned-mob informant-turned-nun Sister Mary Clarence in the Sister Act films. She's also fondly remembered as the Hyena leader, Shenzi, in the animated movie The Lion King (1994) and also did voice work in Toy Story 3 as Stretch.
Her casting as Guinan came as a surprise to the public and was seen as something of a step down: Goldberg had already enjoyed success in big budget films (including a critically acclaimed turn in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple), and was suddenly committing to a semi-regular role on television. As she explained to an equally confused Gene Roddenberry, Whoopi is an Ascended Fangirl of The Original Series, with Nichelle Nichols' role as Uhura was one of her biggest driving inspirations for becoming an actress. In the late 1990s, she served as the center square on a revival of The Hollywood Squares but later left.
She's appeared in over 150 different movies, and has won two Golden Globe Awards, an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, three People's Choice Awards, two American Comedy Awards, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and two Daytime Emmy Awards. This makes her one of just sixteen people to have won The EGOTs, and one of just four out of those sixteen whose Emmy is a Daytime Emmy, not a Primetime Emmy.note (But it still counts. Girl's gotta eat!) With such a large list of films she's been in, they tend to vary from great inspirational roles like in The Color Purple, to well, Theodore Rex.
Has been moderator of the daytime panel talk show The View since 2007.
Trope Namer for:
- Actor Allusion: In 1992 she had Isis Carmen Jones playing a younger version of herself in both Sister Act and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- As Herself: In Tales from the Crypt's "Dead Wait".
- Celebrity Voice Actor: As Shenzi in The Lion King (1994) and Fantasy in The Pagemaster.
- Creator Backlash: Subverted with Jumpin Jack Flash. She disliked it initially but warmed to it.
- Erudite Stoner: Her Fontaine character which got its own show, "Why Am I Straight?". From "Live on Broadway":Fontaine: (on being at the Anne Frank House) I noticed a small staircase leading to a big bookcase, and I'm into books you know, I got a PhD in Literature from Columbia... (audience roars with laughter — Fontaine stares at them) I know you don't think I was born a junkie. I have an education. I got a PhD I can't do shit with so I stay high so I don't get mad! (later) Now why is that so hard to believe? I mean, I'm a junkie, I'm not stupid!
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: When The Muppets guest-starred on The View to promote the release of The Muppet Show on DVD, Kermit brought up the time Whoopi played God in their It's a Wonderful Plot adaptation.
- Lying Creator: She used to lie about her birthdate to make herself seem older, claiming she was born in 1949.
- Money, Dear Boy: She agreed to do Theodore Rex for a $2 million increase to her original salary, as well as to avoid getting the same kind of "breach of contract" fines that derailed Kim Basinger's career.
- Nice Girl: A really funny and pleasant person to be around.
- Old Shame:
- She says of The Telephone that "it read brilliantly but was a cockadoo on the screen".
- "I'm not crazy about Fatal Beauty. It could have been a whole lot better."
- Tried to get out of Theodore Rex, only staying for the paycheck after they threatened to sue her in response.
- She initially defended Bill Cosby when his long history of sexual assault came to light, saying all the women would now be making their cases in court if it were true, not realizing the statue of limitations had run out on many of them.
- Promoted Fanboy: She was a huge Star Trek fan and lobbied hard to be in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Gene Roddenberry had thought that someone of Whoopi's pay grade would be too expensive for the direct-to-syndication show, but she was such a fan of the original series that she wanted to play a part here regardless of the size of the paycheck.
- Remake Cameo: Whoopi appeared in the musical version of Sister Act for a few performances in London, this time as Mother Superior.
- Sassy Black Woman: Most of her roles plays this up.
- Star-Derailing Role: Theodore Rex did massive damage to her career, not least because it was planned for a theatrical release and then went direct to video.
- Star-Making Role: Her Oscar win for Ghost helped make her one of the top actresses of the 90s.
- What Could Have Been:
- She very nearly wasn't able to take the part of Oda Mae Brown, and it almost went to Jackee Harry.
- The Hyenas in The Lion King (1994) were originally written in the hopes of reuniting Cheech and Chong. Cheech Martin agreed to play Banzai, but Tommy Chong was unavailable. Thus the hyena became female, played by Whoopi.
- She petitioned to play the Doctor in Doctor Who but the BBC turned her down.