Marla Gibbs

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her two-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Marla Gibbs talks about getting her start as an actress in Los Angeles after working many jobs and raising a family in the Midwest. She speaks in great detail about the role and the series with which she is most identified, "Florence Johnston" on The Jeffersons. She recalls how she retained her job at United Airlines while appearing on the series until she was comfortable that her work on the series would be steady. She describes the premise of the show, talks about the series ensemble, and outlines the series work-week, which started with a read-through on Wednesday and a taping the following Tuesday. Gibbs comments on the brief spin-off series Checking-In and her return to The Jeffersons. She then recounts how she landed her next series, 227, which was developed from a play in which she starred. She talks about the casting of the series, the production, and her role as uncredited producer. She describes her work outside of television as the owner of several performance spaces in Los Angeles. She then talks about her later work on television, including on The Hughleys, ER, and Passions. Throughout the interview she stresses the importance of keeping active and healthy and staying mentally young. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview on July 27, 2006 in Los Angeles, CA.

"I'd get off from 'Jeffersons' and come right up 6th Street, zoom around the corner, and I'd be sitting at my desk at United Airlines. 'Good Evening, United Airlines, may I help you?' Sometimes people would say, 'Your voice sounds familiar.'... Then I decided that if you only stretch one leg, you can't go very far, you've got to take both legs with you. I decided to give it a shot. And of course, I wasn't sorry."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Marla Gibbs on being cast on The Jeffersons, and on staying behind at the first table read to offer her opinions to Norman Lear
Marla Gibbs on her Jeffersons character, "Florence Johnston"
Marla Gibbs on Zara Cully as "Mother Jefferson" on The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on the legacy of The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on how 227 came about with competing interest from Brandon Tartikoff and Norman Lear
Marla Gibbs on Alana Reed Hall as "Rose Lee Holloway" on 227, and on putting Jackee Harry front and center
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early life and influences; on deciding to get into show business, and on her favorite movie stars growing up
On moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career; on taking acting classes when she first got to Los Angeles
On the kinds of roles she played in theater early in her career; on various early feature film roles

Chapter 2

On the constant rewriting she endured when she was a guest-actor on the Barney Miller episode "Vigilante"; on changing her name; on being cast on The Jeffersons, and on staying behind at the first table read to offer her opinions to Norman Lear
On The Jeffersons producers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West, and on Norman Lear's involvement with the show; on practical jokes on the set of The Jeffersons; on creating the memorable sequence on the classic The Jeffersons episode "Mr. Piano Man"
On a typical workweek on The Jeffersons; on working with Sherman Hemsley as "George Jefferson" and Isabel Sanford as "Louise Jefferson"; on Zara Cully as "Mother Jefferson" on The Jeffersons

Chapter 3

On The Jeffersons writer Michael Moye; on the premise and the characters of The Jeffersons; on Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker as "Tom Willis" and "Helen Willis" on The Jeffersons
On her Jeffersons character "Florence Johnston"; on memorable episodes of The Jeffersons; on The Jeffersons spin-off, Checking In, which co-starred Larry Linville
On how 227 came about with competing interest from Brandon Tartikoff and Norman Lear; on the end of The Jeffersons, and on the legacy of the show; on adapting the play "227" to television

Chapter 4

On doing an episode of 227 that tackled the issue of homelessness, and on dealing with various other social issues on the show; on the premise of 227, and on being an executive producer on the show; on the cast of the "227" play, and on casting the 227 series
On casting Jackee Harry as "Sandra Clark" on 227; on the cast of 227; on putting Jackee Harry front and center on the show
On casting African-American actors on 227; on the directors of 227

Chapter 5

On her 227character, "Mary Jenkins"; on fame and celebrity; on the theme song of 227
On ageism in the television industry; on the end of 227; on appearing on Pryor's Place
On guest-starring on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Hugleys; on her theater; on her then-recent projects

Chapter 6

On then-current projects, including guest-starring on ER and the daytime drama Passions; on her proudest professional achievements and career regrets; on advice to an aspiring actor
On balancing her career and her personal life; on how she would like to be remembered
Shows

Barney Miller

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Marla Gibbs on the constant rewriting she endured when she was a guest-actor on the Barney Miller episode "Vigilante"

Checking In

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Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons spin-off, Checking In, which co-starred Larry Linville

ER

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Marla Gibbs on then-current projects, including guest-starring on ER and the daytime drama Passions

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The

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Marla Gibbs on guest-starring on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Hugleys

Jeffersons, The

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Marla Gibbs on being cast on The Jeffersons, and on staying behind at the first table read to offer her opinions to Norman Lear
Marla Gibbs on how she kept her job at United Airlines on The Jeffersons until she became a regular on the show
Marla Gibbs on practical jokes on the set of The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on creating the memorable sequence from the classic The Jeffersons episode "Mr. Piano Man"
Marla Gibbs on working with her Jeffersons co-star Sherman Hemsley as "George Jefferson"
Marla Gibbs on Sherman Hemsley's request to take "honky" out of the script when referring to "George Jefferson's" now-friend "Tom Willis"
Marla Gibbs on her Jeffersons co-star Isabel Sanford as "Louise Jefferson"
Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons producers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West
Marla Gibbs on Norman Lear's involvement with The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on a typical workweek on The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on Zara Cully as "Mother Jefferson" on The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons writer Michael Moye
Marla Gibbs on the premise and the characters of The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker as "Tom Willis" and "Helen Willis" on The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on her Jeffersons character "Florence Johnston"
Marla Gibbs on memorable episodes of The Jeffersons that featured her character, "Florence," and on Billy Dee Williams appearing on the show
Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons spin-off, Checking In, which co-starred Larry Linville
Marla Gibbs on returning to The Jeffersons, and on the end of the show
Marla Gibbs on the legacy of The Jeffersons

Passions

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Marla Gibbs on then-current projects, including guest-starring on ER and the daytime drama Passions

Pryor's Place

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Marla Gibbs on appearing on Pryor's Place

227

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Marla Gibbs on how 227 came about with competing interest from Brandon Tartikoff and Norman Lear
Marla Gibbs on adapting the play "227" to television
Marla Gibbs on doing an episode of 227 that tackled the issue of homelessness, and on dealing with various other social issues on the show
Marla Gibbs on the premise of 227, and on being an executive producer on the show
Marla Gibbs on the cast of the "227" play, and on casting the 227 series
Marla Gibbs on casting Jackee Harry as "Sandra Clark" on 227
Marla Gibbs on casting Hal Williams as "Lester Jenkins" on 227
Marla Gibbs on Alana Reed Hall as "Rose Lee Holloway" on 227, and on putting Jackee Harry front and center
Marla Gibbs on Regina King as "Brenda Jenkins" on 227
Marla Gibbs on Helen Martin as "Pearl" and Curtis Baldwin as "Calvin Dobbs" on 227
Marla Gibbs on casting African-American actors on 227
Marla Gibbs on the directors of 227
Marla Gibbs on her 227 character, "Mary Jenkins"
Marla Gibbs on the theme song of 227
Marla Gibbs on the end of 227
Topics

Advice

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Marla Gibbs on advice to an aspiring actor

Characters & Catchphrases

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Marla Gibbs on her Jeffersons character, "Florence Johnston"
Marla Gibbs on her 227 character, "Mary Jenkins"

Classic TV series episodes

View Topic
Marla Gibbs on creating the memorable sequence from the classic The Jeffersons episode "Mr. Piano Man," which had her crawling under the piano in a crowded party to try to answer the front door before "George Jefferson"
Marla Gibbs on memorable episodes of The Jeffersons that featured her character, "Florence," and on Billy Dee Williams appearing on the show

Comedy

View Topic
Marla Gibbs on creating the memorable sequence from the classic The Jeffersons episode "Mr. Piano Man," which had her crawling under the piano in a crowded party to try to answer the front door before "George Jefferson"
Marla Gibbs on memorable episodes of The Jeffersons that featured her character, "Florence," and on Billy Dee Williams appearing on the show

Diversity in Television

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Marla Gibbs on staying behind at the first table read of The Jeffersons to offer her opinions on naturalistic dialogue, among other points
Marla Gibbs on casting African-American actors on 227

Fame and Celebrity

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Marla Gibbs on fame and celebrity

Historic Events and Social Change

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Marla Gibbs on staying behind at the first table read of The Jeffersons to offer her opinions on naturalistic dialogue, among other points
Marla Gibbs on casting African-American actors on 227

Minorities

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Marla Gibbs on staying behind at the first table read of The Jeffersons to offer her opinions on naturalistic dialogue, among other points
Marla Gibbs on casting African-American actors on 227

Pop Culture

View Topic
Marla Gibbs on creating the memorable sequence from the classic The Jeffersons episode "Mr. Piano Man," which had her crawling under the piano in a crowded party to try to answer the front door before "George Jefferson"
Marla Gibbs on her Jeffersons character, "Florence Johnston"
Marla Gibbs on memorable episodes of The Jeffersons that featured her character, "Florence," and on Billy Dee Williams appearing on the show
Marla Gibbs on fame and celebrity
Marla Gibbs on her 227 character, "Mary Jenkins"

Television Industry

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Marla Gibbs on ageism in the television industry
Marla Gibbs on advice to an aspiring actor
Professions

Actress

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Marla Gibbs on taking acting classes when she first got to Los Angeles
Marla Gibbs on advice to an aspiring actor

Performers

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Marla Gibbs on taking acting classes when she first got to Los Angeles
Marla Gibbs on advice to an aspiring actor
Genres

Comedy Series

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Marla Gibbs on playing "Florence Johnston" on The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on her guest appearance on an episode of Barney Miller
Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on how 227 came about
Marla Gibbs on starring in and executive producing 227
Marla Gibbs on 227
Marla Gibbs on appearing on Pryor's Place
People

Franklin Cover

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Marla Gibbs on Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker as "Tom Willis" and "Helen Willis" on The Jeffersons

Zara Cully

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Marla Gibbs on Zara Cully as "Mother Jefferson" on The Jeffersons

Jackee Harry

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Marla Gibbs on casting Jackee Harry as "Sandra Clark" on 227
Marla Gibbs on Alana Reed Hall as "Rose Lee Holloway" on 227, and on putting Jackee Harry front and center

Sherman Hemsley

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Marla Gibbs on working with her Jeffersons co-star Sherman Hemsley as "George Jefferson"

Norman Lear

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Marla Gibbs on being cast on The Jeffersons, and on staying behind at the first table read to offer her opinions to Norman Lear
Marla Gibbs on Norman Lear's involvement with The Jeffersons
Marla Gibbs on how 227 came about with competing interest from Brandon Tartikoff and Norman Lear

Larry Linville

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Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons spin-off, Checking In, which co-starred Larry Linville

Michael Moye

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Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons writer Michael Moye

Don Nicholl

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Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons producers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West

Roxie Roker

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Marla Gibbs on Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker as "Tom Willis" and "Helen Willis" on The Jeffersons

Michael Ross

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Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons producers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West

Isabel Sanford

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Marla Gibbs on her Jeffersons co-star Isabel Sanford as "Louise Jefferson"

Brandon Tartikoff

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Marla Gibbs on how 227 came about with competing interest from Brandon Tartikoff and Norman Lear

Bernard West

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Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons producers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West

Billy Dee Williams

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Marla Gibbs on memorable episodes of The Jeffersons that featured her character, "Florence," and on Billy Dee Williams appearing on the show

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