The cast of "The Jeffersons" was, in my opinion, one of the funniest, most talented casts to ever grace the television screen. Here are some brief biographies of the cast members, and what their roles were.
Louise Jefferson was George's level-headed wife of over thirty years. I can't remember even one episode in which she did not appear. When they first moved in to the deluxe apartment, Louise seemed a little uncomfortable with being "rich," but soon got used to it. She often got George out of binds, and sometimes got into binds herself, of with her best friend, Helen Willis. Isabel Sanford did not star in any TV series since "The Jeffersons" ended in 1985, but has starred in several major movies, such as the 1967 hit "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and most recently, "Original Gangstas" just this year. To see a full filmography of Isabel Sanford, see the Internet Movie Database.
George was what was sometimes called "the black Archie Bunker." He started with nothing, and moved to the top, being owner of the successful "Jefferson Cleaners," with seven stores, "one near you!" He often made fun of Florence, the maid. He was always getting himself into, sometimes bizarre, situations. With the help of his loving wife and friends, he usually got out OK. Towards the end of the show's run, he and his best friend, Tom Willis, partnered up and bought Charlie's Bar, a place where each of them had shared moments. Sometimes he would do things so crazy that you almost died in your chair laughing, such as when he opened up his "George Jefferson Museum" in 1981, and when he put his living will on videotape in 1982. But, on occasion, you could see his hidden thoughtful side shine through. To see a full filmography of Sherman Hemsley, see the Internet Movie Database.
Florence was the Jefferson's wise-cracking maid. She almost always was making fun of his height and baldness, and he would fire back with jokes on her looks and cooking. Sometimes they would make bets and try to outsmart eachother, and she would always win. She was loved by both of them, though, and in George's living will, it was revealed that a trust fund was set up in her name, so she would never have to worry about money again. To see a full filmography of Marla Gibbs, see the Internet Movie Database.
Most good shows have at least one pair of really good friends. Lucy and Ethel. Jerry and George. And now, Louise and Helen. These two did volunteer work at the Help Center in their spare time, and went shopping, the rest. Well not all the time, but they did have fun together. Helen and Tom's marriage broke the TV barrier in a completely new way - Helen was black, and Tom was white. "The Jeffersons" was one of the very first shows to have an interracial couple. In real life, Roxie married to Sy Kravitz, (she was Lenny Kravitz's mother) a white man. But, alas, her days of "Movin' on Up" are gone. Roxie left this earth this past December due to complications that were not released. She was in her 60s. To see a full filmography of Roxie Roker, see the Internet Movie Database.
Tom was George's best friend, although George often made fun of his weight, eating habits, and sometimes, stupidity. He was a lover of peanuts. Often, Tom and Helen got mixed up, on purpose or by accident, into one of George's many money-making schemes. He was a genuinely funny character, and Mr. Cover played the part exceptionally. As said above, he and George bought Charlie's Bar in the 1984-85 season. To see a full filmography of Franklin Cover, see the Internet Movie Database.
Mr. Bentley was one of the strangest characters on television. He lived next door to the Jeffersons, in 12E, and often came over to visit them. He would borrow things, tell bizarre stories, or to lay down on the floor so George could literally walk down his back to throw it back into shape! In one episode, he took Florence out on a date! He was from England, and was a translator for the United Nations. Around 1980, he left for Russia for a three year period. In 1983, he returned with a big "Welcome Back, Mr. Bentley!" episode. To see a full filmography of Paul Benedict, see the Internet Movie Database.
Jenny was the black daughter of Tom and Helen Willis. She was Lionel's boyfriend right from the start, and they got married in the 1976 Christmas episode. Along the way, they had a baby girl in 1980 or '81, Jessica Jefferson. She was an aspiring fashion designer, and when Lionel left for Japan for a few years to further his education in electrical enginerring, she still made appearances on the show. To see a full filmography of Berlinda Tolbert, see the Internet Movie Database.
The part of Lionel, the Jefferson's son, was rotated twice between Mike and Damon Evans (no relation.) When the show started, Mike played Lionel, until 1976, when he left for another show. He was always seen with Jenny, but was also busy studying in school. In 1979 or '80, he left for Japan to do continue studying with a Japanese electronics company, and was never seen on the show again, except for maybe once or twice, if I remember right, but Jenny was. Jenny and Lionel had marital problems now and then, and it is written in a television book that they filed for divorce in 1985, but I have never seen that episode and can't confirm the story.
Damon was the other Lionel, from 1976-79, when Mike Evans left the show to pursue a career as an Opera singer in England, where he has won many awards. He was not related to Mike Evans. To see a full filmography of Damon Evans, see the Internet Movie Database.
From 1975-1978, Olivia Jefferson, referred to as "Mother Jefferson," was a regular on the show. She often came by just to visit with her family, and often criticized Louise, her cooking, cleaning, and looks, but deep down, she liked her. She really loved George, and he really loved her. She almost was able to control him in some situations. In 1978, she was said to have died on the show, but in real life, I don't know. She seemed very old, and it's very possible that she died in real life, too. To see a full filmography of Zara Cully, see the Internet Movie Database.
Rarely seen except in the 1978-79 season, Alan Willis was the white brother of Jenny Willis. She was jealous of that fact for a long time, until she confronted him with it, and put it to rest. He lived in Europe for a long time, and moved back in for a year to take a vacation from school. He and George often exchanged insults, but got to be friends after a little time. To see a full filmography of Jay Hammer, see the Internet Movie Database.
Ralph could sucker a tip out of almost anyone. He was the doorman in the Jefferson's building, and was always conveniently dropping by with delivery that he "handled with great care." George would then tip him a dollar or two, but sometimes would slam the door in his face. Ralph was not a regular, but was seen from time to time. To see a full filmography of Ned Wertimer, see the Internet Movie Database.
Charlie was the owner of Charlie's Bar, located in the Jefferson's building. George and Tom would often to go to tell him their problems. The two of them also helped him renovate, get help for his alcoholism, and eventually, but the bar themselves and become partners. Charlie was good at giving advice, and was often entrusted with the problems of George and Tom. According to the book, he became a regular in the 1984-85 season, but I'm not sure. To see a full filmography of Danny Wells, see the Internet Movie Database.
There are two other small characters that I didn't mention, because they weren't featured much. They are Marcus Garvey, an employee of George (I am unaware of his real name, but will find out!) and Jessica Jefferson, Jenny and Lionel's daughter, played by Ebonie Smith. To see a full filmography of either of them, see the Internet Movie Database.
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