Con­tro­ver­sial sit­com ac­tor found dead at 74

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRIDAY EXTRA -

Sher­man Hem­s­ley (pic­tured), who rose to fame in the 1970s as the wise-crack­ing fa­ther in the hit sit­com The Jef­fer­sons, has died aged 74. Hem­s­ley was found dead in his El Paso, Texas, home, Peo­ple Mag­a­zine and celebrity web­site TMZ re­port, cit­ing lo­cal po­lice. The Jef­fer­sons was one of the long­est-run­ning US tele­vi­sion shows with a pre­dom­i­nantly black cast. It fo­cused on how the fam­ily ad­justed to its new-found af­flu­ence af­ter the suc­cess of a dry clean­ing busi­ness. The show ex­plored se­ri­ous themes such as race and class – and Hem­s­ley’s char­ac­ter Ge­orge Jef­fer­son was a no­table bigot. How­ever, it was not as overtly po­lit­i­cal as All in the Fam­ily, in which the Jef­fer­sons were first in­tro­duced as neigh­bours to an even more no­table bigot, Archie Bunker. ‘‘It was ground­break­ing,’’ Hem­s­ley said in a 2003 in­ter­view with the Ar­chive of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion. ‘‘We were wor­ried . . . and said, ‘Oh wow, it’s go­ing to get us can­celled’ be­cause no­body had done it be­fore.’’

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