Della Reese, a multiple Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, a seven-time NAACP Image Award-winning actress and singer – and a minister – will guest star in an upcoming episode of ABC’s critically acclaimed new drama, “Detroit 1-8-7.” The episode, entitled “Shelter,” will air TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. Ms. Reese will portray Lorraine Henderson, an urban, working class mother in her 70s, whose son’s body is found in an abandoned fallout shelter. A young man when he was murdered, Richard Henderson was believed missing since 1967. Reese’s casting reflects the producers’ continuing effort to showcase Detroit talent.
Reese, an ordained minister in Los Angeles, is a native of Detroit, where she started in the church and on radio at the age of six. In her teens she was invited by iconic singer Mahalia Jackson to join her troupe of gospel singers, where she learned the art of communicating with song. After developing her musical style — a unique blend of jazz, blues and gospel — she went to New York, which eventually led to her first record contract and her first big hit, “And That Reminds Me,” in 1957. A subsequent recording contract with RCA gave Reese her biggest hit, “Don’t You Know,” and her first Grammy Award. That success led to her performing in Las Vegas for the next nine years.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Reese launched a successful television career, making multiple appearances on big variety shows like “The Perry Como Show,” “The Jackie Gleason Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Johnny Carson noticed her and had her on “The Tonight Show” numerous times. In the late 60s Reese had her own syndicated daytime variety show entitled “Della,” making her the first African American woman to host her own talk-variety show. But the apex of her television career was the nine years she co-starred in the hit series “Touched By An Angel,” and the additional movies she made for CBS, with her husband Franklin Lett, entitled “The Secret Path,” “Anya’s Bell’ and “The Moving of Sophia Myles.” “Touched By An Angel” is still running in syndication. On the big screen, Reese is most remembered and often mimicked for her performance in the Eddie Murphy film, “Harlem Nights.”
The Reverend Dr. Della Reese Lett is founder and minister of Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles.