Sherman Hemsley

Actor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his one-hour Archive interview, Sherman Hemsley (1938-2012) speaks of his early career as a stage actor (while continuing to work a day-job at the post office) and his rise to fame as "George Jefferson" on All in the Family. He speaks of his being cast for the role and the subsequent spin-off, The Jeffersons. After the show went off the air, Mr. Hemsely continued performing in another sitcom, Amen. Karen Herman conducted the interview in Burbank, CA on August 17, 2003.

"...once you find the rhythm of the character, for me anyway...the words just fall right into place."

Highlights
Sherman Hemsley on direction he was given for the "George Jefferson" character, and his first entrance on All in the Family
02:08
Sherman Hemsley on his first "starring" role -- in elementary school
00:41
Sherman Hemsley on Norman Lear making the rounds of Broadway shows to look for talent, and being spotted when he was part of the cast of the musical Purlie
01:04
Sherman Hemsley on how The Jeffersons worked as a sitcom
00:33
Sherman Hemsley on the creation of the "walk" for George Jefferson's character on The Jeffersons
02:04
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his upbringing in Philadelphia; on studying at the Philadelphia Academy of Dramatic Arts and becoming part of the Negro Ensemble Company; on playing "Gitlow" in Purlie on Broadway
On getting the part of "George Jefferson" after Norman Lear saw him in Purlie
On playing "George Jefferson" on All in the Family; on first meeting Isabel Sanford on the show, and his character's relationship with the rest of the cast
On developing the character of "George Jefferson"; the trademark "walk"
On Norman Lear, Isabel Sanford's "Weezy" character, and settling into The Jeffersons

Chapter 2

On audience reception of The Jeffersons; on his feelings about individual cast members
On favorite episodes of The Jeffersons; on the legacy of the show
On Amen
On Goode Behavior; on his appearance on variety shows, and shows like Fantasy Island and The Love Boat
On reflecting on his career, his old neighborhood, and career advice for actors

Chapter 3

On the theme of The Jeffersons; on good advice he got when starting out -- to "give it two years" in New York
Shows

All in the Family

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Sherman Hemsley on his impressions of All in the Family as a viewer
00:34
Sherman Hemsley on direction he was given for the "George Jefferson" character, and his first entrance on All in the Family
02:51
Sherman Hemsley on the relationship between "George Jefferson" and "Archie Bunker"
00:53

Amen

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Sherman Hemsley on how Amen came about, and how he got into the character of "Deacon Ernest Frye"
04:06
Sherman Hemsley on the religious consultants on the show, and his admiration for Ed. Weinberger
01:38

Donny and Marie

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Sherman Hemsley on doing a musical number from 42nd Street on the show
00:20

Fantasy Island

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Sherman Hemsley on his guest appearance as the world's strongest man
00:18

Goode Behavior

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Sherman Hemsley on how the show "came together" only toward the end of its run
02:19

Jeffersons, The

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Sherman Hemsley on the creation of the "walk" for the of character "George Jefferson" on The Jeffersons
01:36
Sherman Hemsley on how "George" changed over the course of The Jeffersons
01:21
Sherman Hemsley on walking on Paul Benedict's back during The Jeffersons
01:22
Sherman Hemsley on how Isabel Sanford's character's "Weezy" nickname came about on The Jeffersons, and his working relationship with her
01:04
Sherman Hemsley on audience reception of The Jeffersons
01:36
Sherman Hemsley on Zara Cully's "Mother Olivia Jefferson" character 
00:56
Sherman Hemsley on some of his favorite episodes of The Jeffersons
01:29
Sherman Hemsley on how The Jeffersons functioned as a sitcom, and what "George" might be doing today
00:56

Sonny and Cher Show, The

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Sherman Hemsley on playing an aging "Snow White" on the show
00:35
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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Sherman Hemsley on the creation of the "walk" for George Jefferson's character on The Jeffersons
01:36
Sherman Hemsley on how Isabel Sanford's character's "Weezy" nickname came about on The Jeffersons
01:04

Comedy

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Sherman Hemsley on his first entrance as "George Jefferson" on All in the Family
02:04
Sherman Hemsley on some of his favorite episodes of The Jeffersons
01:28
Professions

Actor

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Sherman Hemsley on his craft, and what was "rhythmically" different about the characters he played on The Jeffersons and Amen
01:49

Producers

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Sherman Hemsley on Norman Lear working with the actors during the cast "readings" on The Jeffersons
00:43
People

Paul Benedict

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Sherman Hemsley on walking on Paul Benedict's back during The Jeffersons
01:22

Zara Cully

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Sherman Hemsley on Cully's "Mother Olivia Jefferson" character 
00:56
Sherman Hemsley on Zara Cully lying about her age to get on The Jeffersons, and feeling bad about it
00:13

Mike Evans

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Sherman Hemsley on "Lionel" from The Jeffersons
00:44

Norman Lear

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Sherman Hemsley on Norman Lear making the rounds of Broadway shows to look for talent, and being spotted when Hemsley was part of the cast of the musical Purlie
01:04
Sherman Hemsley on Norman Lear working with the actors during the cast "readings" on The Jeffersons
00:43

Carroll O'Connor

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Sherman Hemsley on the relationship between "George Jefferson" and "Archie Bunker"
00:53

Isabel Sanford

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Sherman Hemsley on meeting Isabel Sanford for the first time, and the moment their characters clicked
01:24
Sherman Hemsley on how Isabel Sanford's character's "Weezy" nickname came about on The Jeffersons, and his working relationship with her
01:04

Ed. Weinberger

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Sherman Hemsley on his admiration for Ed. Weinberger when he worked with him on Amen
00:27

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