Isabel Sanford was having a blast on “All in the Family.” Originally, she was hired for just one episode, as Lionel’s aunt, to help establish the Jefferson family’s move into the Bunker’s Queens, New York neighborhood. When she received a call a few weeks later to come back to the show, she was a bit baffled. She knew that the aunt was a one episode job; she couldn’t understand why they would want her back.
As we now know, the rest is Part 1 of television history. Indeed, producer Norman Lear had bigger plans in mind for Isabel. But, I’ll let her tell you that story. Several years later, after “All in the Family” had proven itself a ground breaking and enormous hit, Lear had another idea.
The popularity of Louise and George Jefferson had also grown. As the Bunker’s neighbors, they quickly became a valuable and indelible part of the landscape of that series. Recognizing that popularity, Lear (who had earlier spun off Edith’s cousin, Maude, into a hit series of her own, starring Bea Arthur), he thought TV success could also find Louise and George in a series of their own.
The concept for “The Jeffersons” series was both brilliant and equally as ground breaking as “All in the Family.” But to ensure that success, audiences would have to follow Isabel and Sherman over to their new zip code in New York City. Immediately, Sherman Hemsley was on board. But, surprisingly enough, Isabel didn’t want to go. She was happy enough on “All in the Family.” As she put it, “That was a sure hit. I didn’t know what ‘The Jeffersons’ would do.”
So, she refused. Asked again, she refused a second time. The third request came with some new information that changed both her options and mind, But, I’ll let her tell you about that, too.
Now playing on the RerunIt.com Home Page, Segment 3 of our exclusive interview with the wonderful Isabel Sanford, titled “I Won’t Go!”
We also have a great collection of DVDs featuring the television and film work of Ms. Sanford now available in the RerunIt Shop. From “All in the Family” to “The Jeffersons,” to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” to “Love at First Bite,” it’s all there at great prices. Add to your personal collection or start one for those times when TV Land reruns just aren’t enough.
By the way, Isabel’s favorite “Jeffersons” episode was also my favorite. Produced during the series’ last season, Sammy Davis, Jr. sublets an apartment on the 12th floor just across the hall from the Jeffersons and his “number one fan,” Louise. It’s hilarious — and Isabel was never better in the physical comedy department than she was in this episode.
Got a favorite “Jeffersons” episode of your own? Tell us about it! Click on the link below to post your comments.
In the meantime, enjoy Segment 3!
From Los Angeles, Brad Lemack.