74 (passed away Jul. 24th, 2012)
Feb. 1st, 1938
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Sherman Hemsley's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Hemsley was born and raised in South Philadelphia by his mother, who was a factory worker. He dropped out of school and joined the Air Force, where he stayed for four years. When he left the Air Force, he moved back to Philadelphia where he worked for the Post Office during the day while attending acting school at night. He then moved to New York, continuing to work for the Post Office during the day while working as an actor at night. He starred as the character Gitlow in the early 1970s Broadway play, Purlie.
While Hemsley was on Broadway with Purlie, Norman 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 role in Purlie, 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 before its cancellation in 1985.
Though Hemsley was largely typecast as George Jefferson, he continued to work steadily after the show's cancellation. He teamed up with the show's original cast members when The Jeffersons moved to Broadway for a brief period.
Hemsley joined the cast of NBC's Amen in 1986 as Ernest Frye, an unscrupulous church deacon much like his George Jefferson character. The show enjoyed a run of five seasons, ending in 1991. Hemsley then was a voice actor in the ABC live action puppet series Dinosaurs, where he played Bradley P. Richfield, Earl's sadistic boss. The show ran for four seasons, ending in 1994.
Hemsley has largely retired from television acting, although he and Isabel Sanford appeared together in the late 90's and in the early 2000s, reprising their roles in guest spots on television programs such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, commercials for The Gap, Old Navy and Denny's, and dry cleaning conventions. He and Sanford also made a cameo appearance in the film Sprung. They continued to work together on occasion until Sanford began having health problems leading to her death in 2004.
Sherman Hemsley is a self-proclaimed fan of 70's progressive rock including bands Gentle Giant and Nektar. On his appearance on The Dinah Shore Show, Hemsley performed a dance to the Gentle Giant song "Proclamation" from The Power and the Glory. After his dance, the host was laughing and asked what kind of music that was. Sherman then proceeded to give a 5 minute speech on Gentle Giant. Sherman can also been seen wearing a Nektar T-shirt during his interview with Norman Lear when Lear hosted Saturday Night Live from Season 2 Episode 26. He currently resides in El Paso, Tx where he can often be seen traversing the neighborhood on various errands.
- George Jefferson, Hemsley's character on _"The Jeffersons" (1975)_ (qv), was ranked #44 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [20 June 2004 issue].
- Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 211-212. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
- Is only 11 years older then fictional TV son Mike Evans on "The Jeffersons".
- Played the same character, George Jefferson, on four different TV series and in a film: the TV series "All in the Family" (1971), "The Jeffersons (1975), "E/R" (1984) and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990), and the film "Jane Austen's Mafia!" (1998).
- Was over twenty years younger than his _"The Jeffersons" (1975)_ (qv) co-star 'Isabel Sanford' (qv) who played his wife on the series.
- Worked as a post office clerk before getting role on All in The Family.
- He and "The Jeffersons "(1975) co-star Isabel Sanford appeared in Old Navy and Denny's Restaurant Commercials.