Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sherman Hemsley Dead at 74

Sherman Hemsley performed with local groups in Philadelphia before moving to New York to study with Lloyd Richards at the Negro Ensemble Company. Shortly after, he joinedVinnette Carroll's Urban Arts Company appearing in these productions: But Never Jam TodayThe LotteryOld Judge Mose is DeadMoon On A Rainbow ShawlStep Lively Boys,Croesus, and The Witch. He made his Broadway debut in Purlie and toured with the show for a year. In the summer of 1972 he joined the Vinnette Carroll musical Sorry, I Can't Copeensemble in Toronto, followed a month later in the American Conservatory Theatre production at the Geary Theatre. This production had Hemsley in Act I performing the solo "Lookin' Over From Your Side" and in "Sermon" in Act II.

While Hemsley was on Broadway with Purlie, with Cleavon Little and Melba MooreNorman Lear called him in 1971 to play the role of George Jefferson on his burgeoning new sitcom, All in the Family. Hemsley was reluctant to leave his theatre role, but Lear told him that he would hold the role open for him. Hemsley joined the cast two years later. The characters of Hemsley and co-star Isabel Sanford were secondary on All in the Family, but were given their own spin-off series, The Jeffersons, less than two years after Hemsley made his debut on the show. Such was Hemsley's and Sanford's compatibility and credibility as a married couple that no one seemed to notice or care that in real life Sanford was twenty years older than Hemsley. The Jeffersons proved to be one of Lear's most successful shows, enjoying a run of 11 seasons through 1985.


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