Sherman Hemsley, who memorably starred as the comically irascible George Jefferson on CBS’ long-running sitcom “The Jeffersons,” died Tuesday, apparently of natural causes, in El Paso, Texas. He was 74.
Hemsley’s George Jefferson began as a recurring character on Norman Lear’s seminal 1970s sitcom “All in the Family.” Spinoff “The Jeffersons,” starring Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as his wife, “Weezy,” ran from 1975-85. Hemsley was nominated for an Emmy for lead actor in a comedy in 1984. (Sanford died in 2004.)
Hemsley also starred for five seasons beginning in 1986 in the NBC comedy “Amen” as Deacon Ernest Frye.
The actor reprised the role of George Jefferson in the mid-’90s on two episodes of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” starring Will Smith, and in a 2011 episode of Tyler Perry sitcom “House of Payne.” He also played Jefferson in an uncredited bit in the 1998 feature comedy “Jane Austen’s Mafia.”
But Hemsley was a busy actor for decades in roles unrelated to George Jefferson. He recurred role on ABC’s Henson sitcom “Dinosaurs,” “Sister, Sister” and “The Hughleys” and starred in UPN’s brief series “Goode Behavior” and 2011 sitcom “Clunkers.” He guested on the likes of “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat,” “227,” “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” “Designing Women” and “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”
He voiced himself in a 2005 episode of “Family Guy.”
Hemsley also appeared in a number of feature films, including “Love at First Bite,” “Club Fed” and “For the Love of a Dog.”
Sherman Alexander Hemsley was born in Philadelphia and studied drama in New York with Lloyd Richards at the Negro Ensemble Company and then at Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Company. He made his Broadway debut in the musical comedy (and outrageous racial satire) “Purlie,” toured with the show and later appeared with Robert Guillaume in 1981 TV adaptation.
There are no immediate survivors.