Carroll O'Connor

Actor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Carroll O'Connor (1924-2001) talks about being a struggling actor in New York: "Carroll O'Connor from the Gate Theater meant nothing. They did an O'Casey play. I was probably the one actor in New York who really could sound like a Dublin man…. I thought to myself innocently, 'I'll just do my thing and I got to get into this O'Casey play.' Nobody knew what I was doing. Nobody cared. And nobody even wanted to see me." Carroll O'Connor made his mark on television as "Archie Bunker" on the landmark sitcom All in the Family and as "Chief Bill Gillespie" on the police drama In the Heat of the Night. O'Connor speaks about his background and childhood pursuits and outlines his early years studying acting, notably at University College in Dublin. He describes acting at the renowned Gate Theatre in Dublin, "the best experience" he ever had as an actor. He briefly discusses his television debut, in the early 1950s, on the BBC and his American television debut on Kraft Television Theater. He recounts how he came to be cast in the stage play "Ulysses in Nighttown" and notes how his performance led to increased television work. He also gives his impressions of co-star Zero Mostel and director Burgess Meredith. He speaks about his numerous appearances on television in the 1960s, including "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story" for Sunday Showcase and multiple appearances on Armstrong Circle Theater. He also discusses how he came to make his feature film debut in "A Fever in the Blood." O'Connor relates how he began to contribute to the writing of the parts he played on television and how, when All in the Family was picked up, he put his stamp on the written material. Regarding All in the Family, he describes the filming of the series' pilots, talks about his contentious relationship with series developer/executive producer Norman Lear, speaks about his co-stars and directors, and discusses his walk-off of (and return to) the series during the show's fifth season. He explains how the follow-up series Archie's Bunker's Place came about and recalls how and why the character of "Edith Bunker" died at the start of the show's second season. Additionally, he comments on his co-stars, talks about casting Martin Balsam's real-life daughter in an episode he wrote that mirrored real life and acknowledges how the series came to an end. He discusses his involvement in the spin-off series Gloria, and how, without his knowledge, the show's initial writers and producer were replaced. He then speaks in detail about his work as writer/star of the television movie The Last Hurrah and In the Heat of the Night. Regarding In the Heat of the Night, O'Connor recalls his early displeasures with the direction of the show, proudly notes the commendation the series received from the NAACP, and describes his favorite series episode. Finally, he touches on various guest appearances he made on television in the 1990s and how he came to write his memoirs. Charles Davis conducted the interview on August 13, 1999 in Malibu, CA.

"That was 'Archie.' All his preconceptions keeping him from enjoying life. That was my message. Because 'Archie' never enjoyed anything. Something was poisoning life for him. He didn't realize that [it] was from inside of himself."

Highlights
Carroll O'Connor on the creation of the All in the Family spin-off Archie Bunker's Place and deciding on the death of "Edith" (in season two)
05:39
Carroll O'Connor on how All in the Family didn't change television, as its breakthroughs remained one-of-a-kind
00:41
Carroll O'Connor on "Archie Bunker" as the best part he ever played, even next to In the Heat of the Night's "Chief Bill Gillespie"
00:22
Carroll O'Connor on "the best experience" he ever had as an actor, performing at Dublin's Gate Theatre
01:57
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker
02:29
Carroll O'Connor on working with All in the Family co-star Jean Stapleton, and how "Edith" represented the perfect moral counter to "Archie"
01:25
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his background and childhood pursuits, including: reading, sports, movies, and radio
On his first appearances on stage; on his mentor at University College in Dublin (UCD); on his studies at Wake Forest College in North Carolina
On serving in the United States Merchant Marines; on his post-WWII studies at the University of Montana

Chapter 2

On traveling with his brother Hugh to Dublin in 1950; on taking the stage name George Roberts until Cyril Cusack insisted HE take back his own name; on appearing at Dublin's Gate Theatre
11:00
On his television debut on the BBC
05:20
On returning to New York as a struggling actor; on his American television debut on Kraft Television Theater: "A Bit of Love"; on quitting acting and teaching drama; on his return to acting
06:46
On appearing in "Ulysses in Nighttown" which put him on the map in the New York theater; on Burgess Meredith
04:22

Chapter 3

On Zero Mostel and the role he played in "Ulysses in Nighttown"; on the reception of "Ulysses in Nighttown" abroad; on his take of the James Joyce source material and production
09:49
On landing a part in the dramatic television production Sacco-Vanzetti, which led to his screen debut in A Fever in the Blood; on TV appearances in the 1960s, including Armstrong Circle Theatre and That Girl
09:06
On contributing as a writer to his television roles; on Desi Arnaz, who cast him in a pilot; on the claim that he'd been up for the role of "The Skipper" in Gilligan's Island; on his initial involvement with All in the Family
08:55

Chapter 4

On collaborating on the characterization of "Archie Bunker" with Norman Lear; on his contentious working relationship with Norman Lear; on "Archie Bunker"
12:17
On All in the Family co-star Jean Stapleton; on filming the All in the Family pilots; on the perception of "Archie Bunker" by the viewing public
10:15
On working with All in the Family co-stars Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers; on "Archie Bunker's" malaprops and character nicknames; on why he re-wrote the material he was given
06:47

Chapter 5

On Archie Bunker's relationship to the characters of "the Jeffersons," "the Lorenzos," and "Maude"; on Norman Lear's contribution to the writing of All in the Family
On the effect of the series' success on Norman Lear and the cast; on suggesting Paul Bogart to direct All in the Family ; on initial All in the Family director John Rich
On walking off All in the Family during its run; on the introduction of child actress Danielle Brisebois as "Stephanie Mills"; on some of the classic episodes of All in the Family
On the donation of "Archie" and "Edith's" chairs from the set of All in the Family to the Smithsonian Institution; on the creation of Archie Bunker's Place

Chapter 6

On the Archie Bunker's Place episode that reveals Edith Bunker's death, "Archie Alone"; on casting Martin Balsam's real-life actress-daughter Talia Balsam in an episode of Archie Bunker's Place that mirrored their real life, "Murray's Daughter"
On the end of Archie Bunker's Place; on the spin-off series Gloria
On writing and starring in the TV movie The Last Hurrah: fighting for director Vincent Sherman, and on the reaction to the piece by critics, some not to his liking

Chapter 7

On the start of In the Heat of the Night; on the casting of Howard Rollins; on O'Connor's displeasure with the series' early producers and scripts
On In the Heat of the Night receiving accommodation from the NAACP; on the cast and guest stars; on his Emmy win; on his favorite episode and Rosalynn Carter's response to it's anti-capital punishment message
On In the Heat of the Night's move from NBC to CBS; on the TV movie The Father Clements Story; on his guesting on Party of Five

Chapter 8

On appearing on Mad About You; on writing his autobiography
On his advice to aspiring actors; on the legacy of All in the Family; on accolades he's received
On how he'd like to be remembered; on his theory as to why CBS Chairman William S. Paley never socialized with him; on the writers of All in the Family and other colleagues; on his wife Nancy
Shows

All in the Family

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker
02:29
Carroll O'Connor on his collaboration with Norman Lear on the characterization of "Archie Bunker" and the pilot script
01:30
Carroll O'Connor on his rewrite of the pilot script of All in the Family and developer/executive producer Norman Lear telling the story on The Mike Douglas Show
01:52
Carroll O'Connor on his weekly contribution to the writing of All in the Family, despite not being credited by Norman Lear
00:27
Carroll O'Connor on his contentious working relationship with Norman Lear and how he resented Lear's not offering him an interest in the All in the Family spin-offs  
01:21
Carroll O'Connor on his character, "Archie Bunker," on All in the Family
02:53
Carroll O'Connor on his contribution to the All in the Family episode "Two's a Crowd," and the ad-libbing by he and co-star Rob Reiner
02:43
Carroll O'Connor on working with All in the Family co-star Jean Stapleton, and how "Edith" represented the perfect moral counter to "Archie"
01:25
Carroll O'Connor on the long gestation period between the All in the Family pilots and a series pick-up
02:26
Carroll O'Connor on the perception of "Archie Bunker" by the viewing public.
02:16
Carroll O'Connor on All in the Family co-stars Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers
01:12
Carroll O'Connor on the source of "Archie Bunker's" malaprops and on series developer/executive producer Norman Lear's contribution to the nicknames "Archie" used
01:36
Carroll O'Connor on why he'd rewrite the material written for "Archie Bunker" on All in the Family
02:02
Carroll O'Connor on regular Vincent Gardenia's dissatisfaction with his role as neighbor "Frank Lorenzo" on All in the Family
01:06
Carroll O'Connor about "Archie Bunker" appearing in blackface in the All in the Family episode "Birth of the Baby, Part One"
01:20
Carroll O'Connor on suggesting director Paul Bogart for All in the Family
01:17
Carroll O'Connor on working with All in the Family director John Rich
00:49
Carroll O'Connor on walking off All in the Family during its run
01:05
Carroll O'Connor on the introduction of child actress Danielle Brisebois as "Stephanie Mills" on All in the Family
01:12
Carroll O'Connor on All in the Family episodes: "Edith's Problem" ("Edith" enters menopause), "Gloria Has a Belly Full" ("Gloria" has a miscarriage), "Edith's Crisis of Faith" ("Edith" shuns her faith when friend "Beverly LaSalle" is killed), "Sammy's Visit" (Sammy Davis, Jr. appears as himself), and "Archie's Brief Encounter" ("Archie" has an affair)
03:33
Carroll O'Connor on the donation of "Archie" and "Edith's" chairs from the set of All in the Family to the Smithsonian Institution
00:29
Carroll O'Connor on the creation of the All in the Family spin-off Archie Bunker's Place and deciding on the death of "Edith" (in season two)
05:39
Carroll O'Connor on Archie Bunkers in all walks of life
00:58
Carroll O'Connor on how All in the Family didn't change television, as its breakthroughs remained one-of-a-kind
00:41
Carroll O'Connor on his theory as to why CBS Chairman William S. Paley never socialized with him
03:01
Carroll O'Connor on the All in the Family writers
02:20

All in the Family: "Sammy's Visit"

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on "Sammy's Visit" as an atypical, yet successful episode of All in the Family
00:43
Carroll O'Connor on working with All in the Family director John Rich
00:49

Archie Bunker's Place

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on the creation of the All in the Family spin-off Archie Bunker's Place and deciding on the death of "Edith" (in season two)
05:39
Carroll O'Connor on his acting with Danielle Brisebois in the Archie Bunker's Place episode "Archie Alone," that reveals Edith Bunker's death
01:29
Carroll O'Connor on the character of "Murray Klein" on Archie Bunker's Place and working with actor Martin Balsam
02:39
Carroll O'Connor on casting Martin Balsam's real-life actress-daughter Talia Balsam in an episode of Archie Bunker's Place that mirrored their real life, "Murray's Daughter"
05:41
Carroll O'Connor on the cancellation of Archie Bunker's Place after four seasons
01:58

Armstrong Circle Theatre

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on the topicality of the material used on Armstrong Circle Theatre
00:57

Father Clements Story, The

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on the premise of The Father Clements Story
01:51

Gilligan's Island

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on the claim that he'd been up for the role of "The Skipper" in Gilligan's Island
00:31

Gloria

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on the spin-off series Gloria
06:32
Carroll O'Connor on his falling out with Sally Struthers after Gloria
00:23

In the Heat of the Night

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on producer Fred Silverman meeting with about the series In the Heat of the Night, an idea of MGM executive Lynn Loring
01:23
On the casting of Howard Rollins (over O.J. Simpson and others) for In the Heat of the Night
01:15
Carroll O'Connor on his displeasure with the first scripts and initial executive producer of In the Heat of the Night
01:37
Carroll O'Connor on the location change, his displeasure with the first replacement producers, and his heart surgery in the early years of In the Heat of the Night
05:50
Carroll O'Connor on receiving accommodation from the NAACP for casting African-American actors on In the Heat of the Night
01:42
Carroll O'Connor on his In the Heat of the Night co-stars and guest stars
01:22
Carroll O'Connor on his favorite episode of In the Heat of the Night, and Rosalynn Carter's response to it's anti-capital punishment message
06:21

Last Hurrah, The

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on writing and starring in the TV movie The Last Hurrah , fighting for director Vincent Sherman, and on the reaction to the piece by critics, some not to his liking
05:32

Mike Douglas Show, The

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on his rewrite of the pilot script of All in the Family and developer/executive producer Norman Lear telling the story on The Mike Douglas Show
01:52

Play of the Week

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on dropping out of a production of TV's Play of the Week to appear in the dramatic television special "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story"
01:29

Sunday Showcase: "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story"

View Show Page
Carroll O'Connor on dropping out of a production of TV's Play of the Week to appear in the dramatic television special "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story"
01:29
Carroll O'Connor on how his agent got him his first film, A Fever in the Blood, by setting up producer Roy Huggins to see O'Connor on television in "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story"
00:50
Topics

Anthology Drama

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on the role dramatic anthologies played for New York actors during the 1950s-60s
01:07

Characters & Catchphrases

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on his character, "Archie Bunker," on All in the Family
02:53
Carroll O'Connor on the perception of "Archie Bunker" by the viewing public
02:16
Carroll O'Connor on the source of "Archie Bunker's" malaprops and on series developer/executive producer Norman Lear's contribution to the nicknames "Archie" used
01:36

Comedy

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on his contribution to the All in the Family episode "Two's a Crowd," and the ad-libbing by he and co-star Rob Reiner
02:43
Carroll O'Connor on All in the Family episodes: "Edith's Problem" (Edith enters menopause), "Gloria Has a Belly Full" (Gloria has a miscarriage), "Edith's Crisis of Faith" (Edith shuns her faith when friend Beverly LaSalle is killed), "Sammy's Visit (Sammy Davis, Jr. appears as himself), and "Archie's Brief Encounter" (Archie has an affair)
03:33
Carroll O'Connor on his acting with Danielle Brisebois in the Archie Bunker's Place episode "Archie Alone," that reveals Edith Bunker's death
01:29

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker in All in the Family
02:29

Minorities

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on receiving accommodation from the NAACP for casting African-American actors on In the Heat of the Night
01:42

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker in All in the Family
02:29

Pop Culture

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on the source of "Archie Bunker's" malaprops and on series developer/executive producer Norman Lear's contribution to the nicknames "Archie" used
01:36
Carroll O'Connor on the perception of "Archie Bunker" by the viewing public
02:16
Carroll O'Connor on his character, "Archie Bunker," on All in the Family
02:53
Carroll O'Connor on the donation of Archie and Edith's chairs from the set of All in the Family to the Smithsonian Institution
00:29

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on the role dramatic anthologies played for New York actors during the 1950s-60s
01:07

Television Industry

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on his theory as to why CBS Chairman William S. Paley never socialized with him
03:01

We Considered

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on his contribution to the All in the Family episode "Two's a Crowd," and the ad-libbing by he and co-star Rob Reiner
02:43

We Cried

View Topic
Carroll O'Connor on his acting with Danielle Brisebois in the Archie Bunker's Place episode "Archie Alone," that reveals Edith Bunker's death
01:29
Professions

Actor

View Profession
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker in All in the Family
02:29
Carroll O'Connor on a tip he gave actress Talia Balsam for a crying scene on an episode of Archie Bunker's Place
01:21
Carroll O'Connor on his advice to young actors to create a reputation for reliability
01:36

Agent

View Profession
Actor Carroll O'Connor on how his agent got him his first film, A Fever in the Blood, by setting up producer Roy Huggins to see O'Connor on television in The Sacco-Vanzetti Story
00:50

Performers

View Profession
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker in All in the Family
02:29

Writers

View Profession
Carroll O'Connor on how his experience as an actor informed his dialogue writing
01:02
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Carroll O'Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker in All in the Family
02:29
Carroll O'Connor on how All in the Family reached beyond doing a comedy show for laughs
01:15
People

Howard Adelman

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on Howard Adelman, who he recalls as being involved early on in the deal to bring 'Till Death Us Do Part to the US (that would eventually become All in the Family)
02:38

Desi Arnaz

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on Desi Arnaz, who had cast him in a pilot at Desilu
01:59

Martin Balsam

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on the character of "Murray Klein" on Archie Bunker's Place and working with actor Martin Balsam
02:39
Carroll O'Connor on casting Martin Balsam's real-life actress-daughter Talia Balsam in an episode of Archie Bunker's Place that mirrored their real life, "Murray's Daughter"
05:41

Talia Balsam

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on casting Martin Balsam's real-life actress-daughter Talia Balsam in an episode of Archie Bunker's Place that mirrored their real life, "Murray's Daughter"
05:41

Paul Bogart

View Interview Page
Carroll O'Connor on suggesting director Paul Bogart for All in the Family
01:17

Danielle Brisebois

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on the introduction of child actress Danielle Brisebois as "Stephanie Mills" on All in the Family
01:12
Carroll O'Connor on his acting with Danielle Brisebois in the Archie Bunker's Place episode "Archie Alone," that reveals Edith Bunker's death
01:29

Rosalynn Carter

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on his favorite episode of In the Heat of the Night, and Rosalynn Carter's response to it's anti-capital punishment message
06:21

Vincent Gardenia

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on regular Vincent Gardenia's dissatisfaction with his role as neighbor "Frank Lorenzo" on All in the Family
01:06

George Roy Hill

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on George Roy Hill
00:19

Norman Lear

View Interview Page
Carroll O'Connor on his rewrite of the pilot script of All in the Family and developer/executive producer Norman Lear telling the story on The Mike Douglas Show
01:52
Carroll O'Connor on his contentious working relationship with Norman Lear and how he resented Lear's not offering him an interest in the All in the Family spin-offs  
01:21

Lynn Loring

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on producer Fred Silverman meeting with about the series In the Heat of the Night, an idea of MGM executive Lynn Loring
01:23

Burgess Meredith

View Person Page
On his estimation of Burgess Meredith, who he considers among the ilk of Dublin Gate Theatre founders Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir
00:33

Zero Mostel

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on Zero Mostel's performance in the stage play "Ulysses in Nighttown" and how it brought him back to prominence following his blacklisting
01:28

John O'Connor

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on writing and starring in the TV movie The Last Hurrah and on the reaction to the piece by critics, including John O'Connor
05:32

William S. Paley

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on his theory as to why CBS Chairman William S. Paley never socialized with him
03:01

Rob Reiner

View Interview Page
Carroll O'Connor on All in the Family co-stars Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers
01:12

John Rich

View Interview Page
Carroll O'Connor on working with All in the Family director John Rich
00:49

Howard Rollins

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on the casting of Howard Rollins (over O.J. Simpson and others) for In the Heat of the Night
01:15
Carroll O'Connor on his In the Heat of the Night co-stars and guest stars
01:22

Vincent Sherman

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on writing and starring in the TV movie The Last Hurrah , fighting for director Vincent Sherman, and on the reaction to the piece by critics, some not to his liking
05:32

Fred Silverman

View Interview Page
Carroll O'Connor on CBS network programmer and later In the Heat of the Night producer Fred Silverman
01:08
Carroll O'Connor on producer Fred Silverman meeting with about the series In the Heat of the Night, an idea of MGM executive Lynn Loring
01:23

O. J. Simpson

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on the casting of Howard Rollins (over O.J. Simpson and others) for In the Heat of the Night
01:15
Carroll O'Connor on the O. J. Simpson making a guest appearance on the last episode of one of the season's of In the Heat of the Night
01:22

Sally Struthers

View Person Page
Carroll O'Connor on All in the Family co-stars Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers
01:12

All Interviews

Q
S