Sherman Hemsley from ‘The Jeffersons’ Dies at 74
Sherman Hemsley from TV’s The Jeffersons dies at 74.
As one of the most beloved characters in TV history, Hemsley played George Jefferson–a loud-mouthed, rude, biggoted Harlem businessman in one of TV’s longest running sitcoms. The show ran for 11 seasons from 1975 to 1985, and was known for its mostly black cast members.
Jefferson passed away at his home on Tuesday. No foul play is suspected, but the cause of death is pending.
“He was a love of a guy” and “immensely talented,” said Norman Lear, producer of The Jeffersons and All in the Family. Lear recalls Hemsley’s audition: ”the minute he opened his mouth he was George Jefferson.”
When asked about his role as a “pompous” and “feisty” character, Hemsley admitted that it was a stretch for him. ”All of it was really hard … because—rude, I don’t like to be that way,” Hemsley said in an interview with Archive of American Television. “But it was the character, I had to do it. I had to be true to the character. If I was to pull back something, then it just wouldn’t work.”
After The Jeffersons was canceled, Hemsley starred in Amen from 1986 to 1991.
Jackee Harry, one of Hemsley’s longtime friends, described him as “a very private person unlike George Jefferson. But he was very kind and very sweet, and generous to a fault.”
The acting bug hit Hemsley at a young age as he describes in an interview with Gloucester County Times.
“Making people laugh was automatic,” he said. “I was in a play in elementary school and had to jump up and run away. I was nervous and tripped and fell down and everyone laughed. Their laughter made me relax, so I pretended it was part of the show.”
“I always told my mother I wanted a job where I could have a lot of fun and have a lot of time off,” added Hemsley. “She asked me where I was going to find that, and I said, ‘I don’t know, but it’s out there.’”