Transcript:

Speaker You're just telling me about your neighborhood. So what did you what did you guys watch? Did you guys watch television together?

Speaker And there was a lady my grandmother had a rooming house and the lady on the third floor, Miss Spencer, had a TV. It was a small TV. I wasn't interested in it. Everybody would go up to her room, her room to see it. But I never was interested in it.

Speaker What were they watching? Or you don't even know because you didn't go in there.

Speaker Probably Milton Berle or some somebody like that. Like that. Yeah, I was sorry later that I didn't appreciate it. But you just weren't interested in entertainment. No, I like being outside, like playing baseball and running bases and things like that.

Speaker Oh, boy.

Speaker The reason I'm asking is I'm wondering, as you were growing up, maybe older than when you were in Chicago, if you saw black people being represented, what do they look like on TV growing up before you were an actress? What do you recall?

Speaker My first teacher was Lillian Randolph, who. Was back with the Amazon and she wasn't on the show, but she was known very well for it. And television.

Speaker And the.

Speaker I thought she was very good, as a matter of fact, she got to work on The Jeffersons, she came in as Isabel's friend or sister cousin or something on the show. So I got a chance to see her perform again.

Speaker So it wasn't something that you.

Speaker We're noticing or wasn't in your world really know, what I liked was musical comedy and things like that, OK?

Speaker And where were black women in those musical comedies that you saw?

Speaker Well, of course, Lena Horne was in a couple of shows that looked at so.

Speaker And where did The Jeffersons land in terms of its role as a. Was was there anything ever like it before?

Speaker Like The Jeffersons, no, no Amazon, they came close, but not not really, but I thought they were hysterical.

Speaker I like them a lot.

Speaker I never seen it. Now, you were saying before that this is interesting, that there were a lot of a lot of actors didn't want to take certain roles.

Speaker No. As time came, you know, they wanted to say we're intelligent, we speak well, we don't do dialect every day. And of course, Frys did a lot of dialect speaking.

Speaker And I remember I work for United Airlines while I was doing The Jeffersons. So I stayed at the airline two years while I was on the show. And one of the girls, she said she joined a workshop.

Speaker She says, but, you know, I don't speak that way. I said, yes, you do. She said, No, I don't. I said, we can't read dialect, but we can speak it as I'm going to say something and then listen to what I'm saying and recognize that you say things like this to as I'm going upstairs and get me some coffee because, girl, my eyes, I'm so that, you know, my back is killing me.

Speaker I said, What did I say? I did not say I am going upstairs to get me some coffee. I said I'm going upstairs, GeoEye in upstairs to get me some coffee, soem coffee. I said, that's you can't write it. We speak it. But when they write it, we feel insulted because we don't know how to read it. Right. So she said, Oh. But it's something that we do as people do all the time, you know, even Caucasians, people, when they're speaking fast and doing just normal things with their girlfriends, that they're not particular about how they do the king's English.

Speaker Sure, we speak differently than we read.

Speaker Right. There's a rhythm, a rhythmic way there. We're all speaking.

Speaker And tell me tell me about your character and basically I think all the characters on that show had a fantastic and beautiful rhythm. Was that something that you guys worked out together or, you know, just came together and it just came together?

Speaker I remember the first table reading I was at. Usually the writers sit down with the director and the producers come in and the actors after they run the show, they get up from the table and go sit down and then they stay at the table. I had never done TV before, so my ignorance told me to stay at the table because I wanted to know what the producer and what the director was talking about. And so nobody said anything to me. So I was at the table and they were trying to do the little notes and stuff, pretending I wasn't there.

Speaker And pretty soon I started saying, Excuse me, excuse me, black people don't talk like that. And they started listening and.

Speaker I would tell them I said this was coming to me because I noticed when I was on the bus, if there was a Hispanic person speaking and they didn't have the same rhythm as that I'm used to hearing, I would turn around to see who was speaking. The same goes for Asians. We all know what they sound like.

Speaker And when somebody is saying that those sound right, we turn to see who's speaking and. So I said that to them and they they listen. So when I left the table, the actor said, you know, they don't pay us to do that, you know? I said, I've never heard anybody say, you know, the writing is incorrect. I said, they say she can't. I said, I don't want them to say that about me. So I want to make sure they have it to. Out of that came. They ask all the actors to stay at the table. And so from then on, we were all at the table. They got our notes, what we thought, and then they went off to. Right. Which made more sense.

Speaker That's amazing. That does not happen anymore. I know.

Speaker OK.

Speaker All right, that didn't know I have you got all those people into that rioting room because you didn't know we were all in the same rehearsal hall, they were just at the table and the actors had gotten up to go sit someplace else while they did their notes. And I want to stay there and hear what they were doing. So I stayed there and they were too polite to ask me to get up from the table.

Speaker So that turned into me, interrupting them two or three times and them and then with them deciding that it was a good point. So then they asked all the actors to stay.

Speaker Do you think that would have happened if it was a white show?

Speaker I don't know. Most of the people that came as guests, even white actors, say this show is so relaxed. I wish to wish we had a set like this. Everybody felt that was something wonderful. They wish they had. Now, I just did hot in Cleveland. And I must say that they have their. They're good. Yeah. They don't mind if you add something.

Speaker So were you in private? I'm sorry. Were you in private?

Speaker Not improving. No, just I want to say child or something like that, they didn't stop me. I've been unsuccessful. They politely say say it again without the right, you know, without your little. So you're not bringing your flavor, really.

Speaker So have you ever auditioned for the role of a domestic servant before, was this your first time doing that?

Speaker No, I did a documentary. Written by Alice, I want to say Childress, but I don't think that's right. It was a it was a one woman show where I'm speaking as a domestic made about what goes on in the house. So it was really nice, but they lost the I never got a copy of it. Somehow it got erased or taped over.

Speaker That name sounds familiar. I know that name.

Speaker So tell me about George Jefferson, who is that man?

Speaker What can I tell you about George share a fool real for Mr. Jefferson, I think reflected and epitomize what most most most Americans think. They think that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and become successful. So he did that. He had seven cleaning stores, one near you and without benefit of formal education. He was the American dream. He was just silly and he wanted to be important and he wanted to have a mate, everybody thinks that he didn't want me, but he's the one that actually hired me.

Speaker Isabelle did not want the maid. She didn't want to put on pretensions. But once chairman found out that the Wilsons had a maid, he had to have one. And she tried her best to make me feel that the audition, she'd say, well, you know, I've got all these windows and they've got to be watched at least once a month as it was a month. She says she does do as I said, not no, once a month I wash your windows every week. So she would say, see, so he kept hiring me and finally I got the job through him. But then when I found out he was putting on airs and acting silly, of course, I was always put them in his place. Such a good role. It was and he was just wonderful to work with because you have to set somebody up for them to hit you and he delighted and set me up. And of course, I delight in setting him up. He come up with things that weren't in the script. Like he said, he was an executive. And I said, well, here, take out the garbage. And he said, OK, hop in. He just made that up right on the spot. He came up with a lot of stuff that was fun.

Speaker Was pretty fantastic, who was who who was Louise a as an archetype, you know, like he represents the American dream.

Speaker What do you think? She represented all the people who work in and.

Speaker Comeback might be back in a minute.

Speaker You can move on and come back to that of. So.

Speaker You know what's interesting? Tell me what you think about this. Um, we interviewed Russell Simmons. Russell Simmons, yes. Two weeks ago, and he grew up on The Jeffersons and Good Times.

Speaker And basically by the end of. This is what he articulated, was he thought that good times was for white people and The Jeffersons was for black people. What do you think about that?

Speaker Does that I think The Jeffersons were for everyone. We did not consider ourselves a black show and we had many Caucasians on as guests. And we had a we had Asian people, honest guests. As a matter of fact, we had Hispanic guests. So we never considered ourself a black show.

Speaker We were a show for all the people Sherman represented, all the people who were without benefit of education, worked and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Isabel represented all the people who were stay at home wives who volunteered. So they had the help center. So she went out and she worked in the help center without pay. But this is what people did when they were affluent. And so she represented all those people. Roxy and Franklin represented interracial marriage and they had children. They had a child and what goes on. And that's what Norman wanted them to be authentic. Of course, in real life, they were both married interracially. Roxy was married to a Jewish man, Sy Kravitz, and Franklin was married to a Spanish woman. Mary, I didn't know that. Yes. So and as a matter of fact, the doorman, Ralph Nader, was married to an African woman, Nigerian guy, any word of mouth. And we're all still friends. Of course, we lost midwater. My Ralph, we lost him last year. But before then, the four of us, Sylvia, who worked as the director's assistant, she and Knid and Skåne and I would have dinner at least twice a year. So Skåne decided that we should keep it up in his memory. And we do family because we just lost Sylvia, too, so.

Speaker Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah.

Speaker What about the public, though, it sounds like you guys as as a unit, you felt like I think we represented America really.

Speaker You had the children, The Jeffersons son and the Willis daughter who were in high school. And you saw them and saw them in high school. You saw them in college. You saw them when they got married. They had their child. So we represented all segments of what was going on in society and had represented Ralph, the doorman, to represent all the people who work for tips. And Mr. Bentley, the next door neighbor, he represented the people that worked at the UN so we could bring the UN flavor.

Speaker Yeah, I wondered what he represented. Yeah. Um. So what about Norman being this white Jewish guy that created the show, nobody ever thought of Norman as a white Jewish guy.

Speaker Norman was like The Godfather. Norman had an uncanny way of knowing what was real. And what would work and when he came to a show that was a problem, he could spot it and fix it right away. He wanted the witnesses to be a real couple like they were in real life. He wanted real kisses, real fights. And when he came, he just solved it just like that.

Speaker Did you do you remember some conflicts that he was able to resolve?

Speaker Yeah, that was one and one that shows with the witnesses and it just was not working. And so I had seen him in the hallway and I kind of said, how come you don't come to our show anymore? And he said, well, you guys don't need me. So I said, oh, he said, well, you want me to come? I said, yeah. So he told everybody to cancel what he was doing. I'm going to The Jeffersons. Of course, the producers were not happy with that. They said, Norman's coming.

Speaker Who Infocom, who invited him, Marla? But he came in and solved it right then and then left.

Speaker Amazing, it sticks out.

Speaker And Franklin and Roxy. We're like a real couple. As a matter of fact, Roxio always called Franklin the black one was, and she picked him up and brought him in to work all the time. So they had fun. Franklin's wife and Roxy with Franklin all the time.

Speaker What about the language of the show and also in all the family, the land, the language would not fly any more. They could not have that on primetime television?

Speaker Well, you know, Sherman got tired of calling it, frankly, a hockey, and he said, we're friends now. He said, I wouldn't still be calling it. He didn't like it. So we changed it because they were friends.

Speaker What did he change it to remember? No, just Tom.

Speaker So you said that you stayed working at United for two years?

Speaker Yeah, I was there 11 years when I got hired.

Speaker OK, you just said you didn't you didn't believe in the show or what?

Speaker Well, I was always told a bird in the hand is better than 20 in the bush. And I didn't know if this was going to go. And I had been united over 10 years.

Speaker So I had my choice of shifts. I could I could get weekends off and I'd work very hard for that. And I had unlimited passes, so I wasn't too quick to give that up.

Speaker So in two years, Nichols' Rossin was where the producers on the show and the.

Speaker I think his first name. He came to me and he said, you still have a job?

Speaker I said, yeah. He said, well, we thought you had quit. I said, you haven't told me nothing to make me quit. You got something to tell me? I said, Well, we thought you'd be. I said, No, I'm not tired. And he said, Well, would you take a leave? I said, If you pay me. So I kind of my little he said, well, give us.

Speaker You figure we'll pay, you take the lead, so I took a leave for 90 days. And I just shook my head and when I gave my little pitiful salary, I think it was embarrassing, but I gave it to them and they gave me a cheque. And after 90 days, I said. Well, I can't go any further than I could take one leg, so I wouldn't want to go somewhere, I got to be able to take both legs with me. So I resigned from United and then I was never sorry.

Speaker Good. I think you made the right choice.

Speaker How about that episode that I just showed you that was one of my favorites, because I like fast action, like moving, and I had to do a lot of running around and crawl, and I love that episode.

Speaker Was it was it considered controversial or provocative at the time? Again, it's not something that I don't think could get on now or what everybody, you know, have common sense.

Speaker You know, it's a put on. So when I come on Edgemont costume, he wanted me to be a proper maid. So I came out as Aunt Jemima and he wasn't expecting that. But I never would let him rest. I was all over him. I want to share your shoes and get off of me. And Isabel, of course, is tickled. She's laughing at everything.

Speaker So Bairstow.

Speaker Do you remember any reaction from the public on any of this stuff?

Speaker Not on that one.

Speaker No, I loved it when I started saying way down upon the Swanee River that they had killed them. They loved it.

Speaker It's hilarious of. So let's see.

Speaker Now, what do you think what do you think the legacy is of that show? What what programs do you think came out of The Jeffersons in terms of you guys paved a path for others?

Speaker Well, I love Everybody Loves Raymond. Feels like that was.

Speaker Close to it that there wouldn't be that if there had been The Jeffersons. What about?

Speaker Well, I don't know if it wouldn't be that, you know, because we're all one. So we all have like minds. And somebody would come up if they had been The Jeffersons, somebody would have come up with something like that thing.

Speaker Right. What about something like The Cosby Show? Do you think The Cosby Show was a like a relative?

Speaker Cosby's was what everybody wanted to see and but I didn't think it didn't represent black neighborhoods. I wanted my show to represent the neighborhood. I came up in a black neighborhood that I wanted the kids to go to public school and have the problems. Kids have a public school such as one of the friends that Calvin made. Was dressed nice and all the girls thought he was cute and he was driving this car. He was actually selling drugs. So I wrote that show which.

Speaker But can you tell me what show was? The name of the show, I can't think of the name of the show, not not the episode, but what show you're talking about. Oh, I'm sorry, it was cut by two to seven, so let's talk about something that I just didn't know that what you were referencing. Yeah. Tell me about tell me about two to seven how that that was a normal show, too, right?

Speaker No, that was a play I was doing in my theater. I had a theater in the community theater and how Wavves was my husband in the theater. Regina King was a little girl down the street that plucked my nerves all the time. She was in the play, but she was my daughter in the play. And the show ran for like six months. It was supposed to be up for like three or four weeks, but he kept bringing crowds in. And so in the meantime, everybody came to see it, ran into Autocar, came to see it and from NBC and the Columbia Pictures came to see it. Universal came to see it. And Norman was walking on the lot. And I was at at rehearsal one day he said, I hear you have a good show.

Speaker I said, Yeah, we do. He said, Well, I want to come and see it. I said, Well, you better hurry up because we're closing time. I said, you better come tomorrow because we're closing. So he said, well, call my office. So I did. And he came with with his assistants.

Speaker I think he was mereta then and at the end, he said.

Speaker What do you doing, I said when I'm talking to Columbia, he said, have you signed anything? I said, no. He said, Well, why don't you and I do it? So I said, OK. And so that's that's how it got to be with Norman.

Speaker And how long how long did that show run? Five years. That show ran for five years. And did you did you enjoy it? What did do?

Speaker I loved it because I was untitled exec producer. I had all rights, courtesies and privileges. So I wrote scripts. I did I stayed in editing and made sure we got what I wanted to see on the screen. And and at first they didn't want me and editing. After a while they would do it without me. So it was great.

Speaker Amazing for five years. That's wonderful.

Speaker So. When when's the last time that you saw?

Speaker Mr. Blair, it again, when's the last time you saw Norman? I saw Norman when we did a thing for him was about three or four weeks ago. Was it fun what was happening? And I saw him when he wrote his book and he had. He had he invited me to the meeting.

Speaker How was the event a few weeks ago? It was fabulous. Tell me about it.

Speaker Yeah, well, they had us come towards the end and my grandson really wanted to see common. That's one of his favorite people I a jazz CD and he's remastering it. Oh, really? Yeah. So that's why he has the website and everything going.

Speaker And what, what were they talking about. What was, what was a roundtable about.

Speaker What was Norman's influence on, on rap.

Speaker OK, just music that. Not popular culture in general.

Speaker I think we covered all of that.

Speaker OK, so what is your opinion on that? What do you think is influences?

Speaker I thought it was fantastic. I didn't really think about his his influence on rap.

Speaker What about just general popular culture for white and for black?

Speaker Audiences, I think he brought into view what everybody wanted to see, whether they were white or black. He brought he brought it in a way that everybody could accept it. In terms of how do we do that, I went just just the material that he wanted to put up and the access and the reality of what they were doing. I know when we were doing two to seven. Hal Williams, Lester and I were when we went out on one of the junkets for the show. We were in Vegas as this couple ran up to us from the airport and he said, you're doing us, you're doing us, I just showed you that was a Caucasian couple and they felt like Lester was like him and I was like her, which is what I wanted when I said to Norm and I said, whether you know it or not, I said, when you come home. I said, your wife may be on the phone talking to her friend and she's just going on, but the moment you hit the daughter Hi honey, she goes into soprano. I said, we all do it. We don't know why we do it, but we do it.

Speaker Hi, honey. How was your day? You hungry?

Speaker We talk up there, then we go, girl, I got to go. No man just walked in, I talk to you later in your regular voice and it goes on all the time, everybody does it. We go into soprano, I guess we get ultra feminine.

Speaker And I said, people are interested in what's going on between men and women because the men get an opportunity to say, see, see what he said? Mm hmm. And she says, oh, no. And when she says she when I win, then the woman gets to say, Aha, see, so they each take a side and I think all over everybody. But no matter what what race they are, they agree.

Speaker So you think it just.

Speaker That all this stuff transcends the race, right, because people are people, we're all one, we don't recognize it. But if you think about it, we all have the same experiences. We all have the same challenges. And the only difference is what we try to make it the color. And now that's disappearing because most of us are mixed.

Speaker What about.

Speaker Good Times versus The Jeffersons, did you get did they get compared a lot when you were on the program just because Norman created both of them?

Speaker Well, no, because good times represented the poor.

Speaker People who didn't have and The Jeffersons represented the affluent people along with me, who was one of the poor ones. Those are countries, right, all the time.

Speaker So, um. Do you think that was important, like. I thought it was very interesting to have. Someone that's not as affluent to the staff with this. Right. It's a couple, but under no circumstances did she feel like she was last man.

Speaker No, no, she thought they were putting on there. She didn't know. As a matter of fact, Miss Jefferson said to me once, OFF-SCREEN, she said, exactly why do we have you here? I said, obviously, you don't know and you don't know how to take care of your house. You don't know how to open your door. You don't know how to cook. You don't know how to clean. I said that when I leave here, you're going to know everything. I'm here to teach you. You just say. That was in an episode no, no, that was. We always played around with each other, but she was exactly why do we have you here? Did you guys take.

Speaker So tell me about Norman's been, I wouldn't say complaining, but he's been talking about how he's treated now that he's in his 80s, his 90s, et cetera. What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker Well, we all say that that's why I'm still 30. I just refuse a park on and I refuse to move. Being 30, there's nothing I can say I can't do because if you're 30, you ought to be able to do that. And so that's my rationale. No one wants to be in his 80s. That's fine. If you can, when people ask me my age, I said, I'm 30, born in thirty one. You do the math and don't tell me. So people say, well, how about money? I'm not mad about man, I gave you my birthday, you two, I you can count. I just don't count the way you count. So you're still working. So I will always be working. I don't retire from anything. As long as you move, you should be able to do something that you want to do. The only reason that stops people don't start that mess till they get to 40. So I said don't go near 40. Oh, here comes a big four is too late. It's never too late. If you're still breathing, you got another shot.

Speaker True, I had people come to me when I had a jazz supper club and a lady came in one day and she said, Marla. She said, I always wanted to act. She said, but now I'm 65 and she's a. Do you think it's too late? Sir, are you still breathing? She said, yes. I said it's not too late. I said it's too late when you stop breathing. And I was laying in the bed one day and I turned on TV and there she was starring in a movie of the week. So her name was Franki. I got her on and The Jeffersons as one of my choir members.

Speaker So I'd say, Miss Jefferson, the girls are going to go in the kitchen and we're going to rehearse and Sherwood and say girls, which he made up girl. And we would crack up and we have to start again.

Speaker Oh, it sounds like you guys were having a good time. So how old were you actually when you first when you got the part, when you got this big part, that was nineteen seventy five.

Speaker If I was born in thirty one, you have to do the math because I don't do that.

Speaker So you weren't but you weren't a little kid. You were.

Speaker No. You were grown. I had children of course somewhere somebody said I had children at 13 which was totally ridiculous. I don't know where they got that really. But my children, my grandson said to me.

Speaker I was 29 at the time, he said, how can you be 20 that when mom was this, I said, that's your mother's. She wanted to be that is that's got nothing to do with me. So my grandson, all his friends, all call me grandma. So I said, OK, you guys are too big to call me grandma from now on, I'm GMAR. So to this day he calls me Jumma and his kids call me Gigi. So my Lord Jesus said. I'm not your gee, I know we're both g.g, I said you're my great granddaughter and I'm your great grandmother, so that makes you and Major, she said, Oh, so she accepts that. Now, she said, you're the best guy in the whole world and I like to buy her dresses.

Speaker You are. You do the. Did you ever watch on the family? I did. What did you think of that show when it came on?

Speaker I loved it. We all loved it because it represented a truth that happens. You know, there are things that happen in society. You can't pretend they're not happening. And Archie Bunker was one of those people.

Speaker Did you know one of those did you know that guy? Have you met that guy before? Yeah. When when did you meet him? What was it? Chicago.

Speaker What was that different people that just say that hurt your feelings?

Speaker But you thought it was OK to see them on television? It didn't bother you? Oh, no. He thought he was.

Speaker So when they they were talking about against it and wanted to come out, most of the black people said, no, we want him to stay on. He represents what was real was happening.

Speaker Huh? Is that true? They liked having some with at least was out there saying what they knew people were saying.

Speaker Yeah, right. And Sherman became the other side because black people are bigots also and Sherman would say hulky or zebra. And then, of course, Roxy's father and Franklin's father didn't get along.

Speaker I just saw that this great episode where. They met. The Jeffersons need their daughter in law. Yeah, I'm talking about and George Jefferson and Archie Bunker.

Speaker I have so much more in common than they do not, we all do, we all do what I have so much more in common. So I thought that was just it's really amazing, it's like they had to find someone to meet his match, you know, and he was like a little he was like a pit bull, you know, but with a lot more money than it was so interesting. Yeah. Pushing of.

Speaker The Jeffersons was the longest running sitcom in history, how many how many seasons we ran 10 and a half years, 11 seasons.

Speaker The first season was a half a season.

Speaker Why do you think what? Why do you think it struck like that?

Speaker Why it would have still, as a matter of fact, is never stop running. It's been on TV all this time. And we. Would everybody was upset because they never told us that they canceled it. And so Isabel was upset to the day she died. They never had an ending show. They never told the public we were being canceled. We had the last show. What they did was they put the reruns on the same week as a new show. And so nobody everybody thought they were looking at new shows, you know, so they never missed the show leaving because the reruns were still running. Why did they do that? I have no idea. I guess they got tired of paying the actors.

Speaker Right. But, you know, there's an audience that cares about what happens to these people.

Speaker I know. But if you don't know, you're not going to say anything. And people keep asking us, they keep saying, what? Are you guys going to have a reunion? Well, of course, we can't have a reunion now because everybody's gone except me and Berlinda and the second Lionel Damon Evans in New York.

Speaker Why do you think it lasted so long? I know they didn't end it properly, but why do you think it went on for over a decade? What what was it about the show?

Speaker What I said before, people were so themselves in the show, they saw someone they knew when the show. Whether it was somebody who worked for tips or they had their hand out or whether it was a maid or somebody who worked for them all, I got, as a matter of fact, I represented all of the have nots, people who worked and couldn't say what they wanted to say because they might be fired. So whether it was their father or their boss, somebody had them where they could be free to speak. And I represent them when I got Jefferson, I got their father or their boss, and did people come up to you and say that?

Speaker Yeah. Do you remember those days I've been in a grocery store?

Speaker Said Mr. Jefferson's, just like my father. My father in walks like.

Speaker Yeah, it's satisfying to see someone.

Speaker Talk back, yeah, so most people could not talk back, then people would say, you know what value? I said, why? I said he asked for me as you got to be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. And they will there.

Speaker Did you ever watch any of the other shows, did you watch?

Speaker Yeah, I watched one day at a time. I watch all the shows.

Speaker Oh, you did? What about Mod? Ma, do you remember the show, my dear, watch ma, that's hee hee. He said that Ma the character was the one was the character that most represented him, actually. Really? Yes.

Speaker Do you do you have any thoughts about that show? That show also was flagged for a lot of provocative material that show.

Speaker The one, the star goodtimes.

Speaker The one that started it starred, oh, the star Esther Esther came out from. Oh yeah, she worked for me. Exactly, yeah. Um, did you were you friendly with any of that cast?

Speaker I was. I was you know, I like the cast. I liked all these shows actually.

Speaker Yeah. As as an actress or as naughty as an audience and as an actress.

Speaker So.

Speaker What about now? Did did did was there ever any flack or pushback from the black community say it again. Was there ever pushback from the black community about the show that you that you were aware of that you needed to deal with or you put that you didn't notice it?

Speaker No, the critics said that Jefferson wasn't wasn't going to last, why? Because we proved them wrong, but the public loved it.

Speaker Why did the critics what was their beef? I don't know.

Speaker No one had come with different ideas. And and change is hard to accept, I guess. But the critics said it wouldn't last, but it did.

Speaker Oh, I didn't realize that it was the first and the first critics. So it was just because he was doing something new? I think so. Right.

Speaker We see here.

Speaker What about as a matter of fact, when we first started, some of the black community wanted to have a say in what he did and no one resisted it. I remember hearing him say. Nobody's going to tell me what to do. And after while everybody backed off, it kept going and they like this so that the public liked it.

Speaker Who who was who was wanted to weigh in, just members of the black community. Yeah, some some of the.

Speaker Maybe church members and some of the the political people that want to make sure it was what they wanted to see, they wouldn't be embarrassed or whatever.

Speaker Right. And did he ever speak to you about that? No. No. And what do you think what what was your opinion of that when when you heard that?

Speaker I understood. The same way I would feel you would feel if you start a business and somebody would come in and tell you how to run in, you know, as long as you were not doing anything that was detrimental or showing them in a bad light, then I don't think they really have a leg to stand right.

Speaker Especially once black and white audiences like it. Right.

Speaker Everybody liked it. I was walking down the street and the lady walked up to me, an Asian lady, and she said I could understand what she was saying. Then she said, slow dance.

Speaker And she said, Jefferson and.

Speaker I said, my goodness, should they watch big games as she watches this show? I ran into a lot of people like that. A lot of people told me they learn to speak English watching the show.

Speaker I said, listen to me, Larry.

Speaker I also I read this really great article about how it was with Sherman. I thought it was like an Iranian woman who she said her whole family would watch The Jeffersons. And it was honestly it was like a like you were saying was the American dream.

Speaker And they were just getting assimilated into the United States.

Speaker And she said they saw themselves this, you know, Iranian family saw themselves in The Jeffersons. I thought that was so.

Speaker I think everybody did.

Speaker It's a very American right.

Speaker And then we we dealt with a lot of topics like a kidney, somebody doing a kidney transplant. George, his cousin wanted his kidney, one one of his kidneys and he was having a problem with finally gave me. You gave him the kidney. There were a lot of things, issues that the people deal with, they came up right.

Speaker Real issues. Yeah, yeah, life issues. And also, of course, George just being, um.

Speaker Let me see here. I think we've covered a lot of stuff.

Speaker So what do you think you've learned from working with Norman Lear? So much.

Speaker The general, the generosity of spirit, being able to stick to your guns and create something. That you believe in. And then have people executed and people love it.

Speaker We all want that.

Speaker And he's been the same person, always greets me with a hug and a kiss.

Speaker And I read him the same way. I did have a picture of he and I dancing together, I think, right after the first season. And the. I can't find their pictures. I hope my grandson has it.

Speaker Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Speaker You guys are celebrating your hit, right?

Speaker You want to make sure you kind of touched on it, but I was thinking, if you take yourself back to you being this is arguably one that even arguably I think you were such an instrumental part of the race conversation through such an instrumental part of the conversation of race through all these years. If you were back in Chicago in nineteen forty one. So your 10 year old self, what advice would you give that person?

Speaker Good question.

Speaker And tell Rachel, yeah, I do get questions like that, people trying to get in the business, I said, number one, you can't do what we did because the circumstances will never be the same as that. But as long as you have faith. And trust in yourself, trust in God, and take a step, I believe if you make one step God makes to you have to make yours in faith not knowing and the other two will be made universal conspires to bring you your dream. But you have to you have to believe in it first and you have to step out. And if you want to get in this business, you have to respect the business, learn about it. Get in place so people can see what you do, don't try to just go to Hollywood to be on TV as a number one, they can't just open the door. They'd be open or they wouldn't be in business. They'd just be there opening the door all day long for people who want to want to get in and listening to them, I said, if you do a play. And the critics will give you a good, good review that helps, then you can get an agent. There's a way to get in, there's always a way to get in and people find it when they want to.

Speaker And you're glad you did. I'm very glad I did.

Speaker OK, one more thing. Yeah, just you mentioned your love for jazz. Say it again. You mentioned your love for jazz and you have a new album that your grandson is remixing. What, out of the songs on that album? What is what is a song on there that that reminds you of your experience working with Norman?

Speaker If there is one.

Speaker Well, the one I wrote was just the title of the CD. It's never too late.

Speaker You sing a little bit of it for. Yeah.

Speaker As long as you breathe, you'd better believe it's never too late for life. So drop all your fear, because as long as you hear it's never too late for a life dream, your dreams scream your schemes. Living your life is the way you cannot borrow from tomorrow. We only get one day.

Speaker So don't give me the blues because I've got good news. It's never too late for life. Start being bold and stick to your goal. Forget all that stress and strife. Just keep the faith and trust your hard. But use your head because that's being smart is never too late for life and with some help from above, lots of help from above. It's never too late for love.

Speaker Well, it is a truth that I want people to see is never too late. Everybody said, oh, it's too late now, but they don't start that till they get 40 or 50. And once they do that, that is too late because that's what they put in the universe and that's what they start to act like. It's too late.

Speaker Have you always had this? This?

Speaker I've always felt that there was something I wanted to do. I didn't know it was this. I want to sing, but I was too shy. And I always felt that if you're singing, you're asking people to take you when you're acting, you asking them to take the character and you don't care whether they like the character or not because that's not you. But when you're singing, if they don't like you, they don't like you. So. So I was a little shy about that.

Speaker No, you sounded gorgeous. Sounding so nice. Thank you.

Marla Gibbs
Interview Date:
2015-01-28
Runtime:
0:50:20
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"Marla Gibbs, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 28 Jan. 2015, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1045
APA CITATIONS:
(2015, January 28). Marla Gibbs, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1045
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Marla Gibbs, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 28, 2015. Accessed November 27, 2021 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1045

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