Sherman Hemsley was born February 1, 1938 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is mainly recognized for his portrayal of the quick-tempered “George Jefferson” character in the hit television show The Jeffersons, which aired for 10 years. Earlier in his life, Sherman Hemsley served in the U.S. Air Force and worked eight years for the U.S. Postal Service while mastering his craft. Eventually, he became a member of the famed Negro Ensemble Company. He began taking acting lessons and became educated at the Philadelphia Academy of Dramatic Arts as well as studied with Lloyd Richards in New York. In 1969 he debuted in the acclaimed role of "Gitlow" in the highly successful, Broadway musical version of Purlie.
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In 1973 Hemsley was "Cat" in the successful stage play Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope. It was during the run of this show that he was "discovered" by independent producer Norman Lear. When producer Norman Lear cast him as “George Jefferson” on All in the Family, Hemsley’s keen comic timing soon had Lear realizing he had a series star.
The Jeffersons was one of three highly successful television sitcoms featuring African-Americans in starring roles. In a mostly-black cast program, it was the first television show to feature an interracial married couple. At that time, The Jeffersons offered an uncommon albeit comic portrayal of a successful African-American family.
Personally, Hemsley is quite unlike the high-strung character he has popularized on television. He is a mild-mannered private individual who has managed to own a production company called Love Is, Inc. He is also a member of several industry associations such as the Screen Actors Guild, Actor's Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists as well as the Vinette Carrol's Urban Arts Corps. He has received awards such as the NAACP Image Award, Golden Globe Awards, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Award.
When The Jeffersons was canceled in 1985, Hemsley went on to star in the 1986 sitcom Amen. In typical Hemsley style, he portrayed a surly Philadelphia church deacon, Ernest Frye. Amen lasted five years on prime-time television. Hemsley’s accomplishments are seemingly endless. He has starred as "Willie Goode" in the sitcom Goode Behavior as well as appeared in several television programs, including the long-running Family Matters. In 1999, he reprised his role as "George Jefferson” with Isabel Sanford in a series of Old Navy Commercials.
Although known mostly for his television work, Hemsley’s acting credits include the motion picture, Love at First Bite (1979) and the made-for-TV version of Purlie (1981) as well as many other films. Years after its cancellation, The Jeffersons still enjoys success in syndication, and Hemsley's career continues to flourish. Hemsley’s current projects in motion will serve as a continued testament to fans worldwide that Sherman Hemsley is a constant and solid talent that knows no limits.
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