Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TV's Sherman Hemsley: Why He Was Important

Whether you remember actor Sherman Hemsely from All In The Family or later from The Jeffersons or even later from Amen, it's important to remember his very real contribution to TV and the popular culture.

As George Jefferson, Hemsely played one of the first upper-income blacks on TV and that was a full decade before The Cosby Show. Helmsley was also the first black character presented as an arrogant, intolerant, bigot -- a kind of black Archie Bunker.

Jefferson was 74 years old and died at his home in El Paso, Texas.

Hemsley reportedly got his big break on "All in the Family." His character, the wise-cracking George Jefferson, was so popular, that Hemsley was soon given his own spinoff. "The Jeffersons" ran for 11 years and had one of the best, most beloved theme songs in television history. Following the end of the "Jeffersons" run, Helmsley starred in another sitcom, "Amen," in which he played the paternal Deacon Frye.

In a 2003 interview, Hemsley talked about the history of George Jefferson. When he debuted the character on “All in the Family,” Hemsley said he was told to act “pompous and feisty.” While he was off-stage waiting to make his very first entrance on “All in the Family” (already a huge hit), Hemsley said he began to have second thoughts and asked himself: “Should I run? What the heck did I get myself into? Do I know my lines?”

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