"Jeffersons" credits

Isabel Sanford gets top billing over Sherman Hemsley, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but anyone know why? Was she famous before the show? The first I saw either of them, that I can remember, was on “All in the Family”.

WAG, Isabel Sanford originated the role of Louise Jefferson. Sherman Hemsley didn’t originate the role of George. She therefore played her character longer than he played his.

Otto, you nailed it in one. Along the same lines, Esther Rolle was spun off of Maude and was the top billing in “Good Times”.


Makes sense. Hemsley sure stole the show though.

Did Mike Evans (the original Lionel Jefferson) top Sherman in billing as well? He was the best known of the Jeffersons on “All in the Family”.

BTW, Sherman Helmsley did appear (at least once) on “All in the Family”, I think right before the spin off.

Not having seen an episode of The Jeffersons for a while and assuming that IMDB’s episode count is correct, Mike Evans appeared in fewer than 40 episodes of the series. He would likely have been billed as a guest star rather than a series regular.

The show was about the parents. George & Louise. Lionel just went over as part of the package and was even replaced at one point if I remember correctly.


That is correct. Probably more than one. But he wasn’t the original George Jefferson.

As I recall, Sherman Hemsley did indeed originate the character of George Jefferson. The actor who preceded him on “All in the family” was Mel Stewart, who played George’s brother, Henry. Hemsley was Norman Lear’s original choice for George, but was appearing in the Broadway play Purlie, and was unable to commit to AITF until 1973. Lear held the role open for him and wrote in the role of Henry Jefferson for Stewart until Hemsley was able to appear on the show.

According to IMDb, this is correct. Every instance of “George Jefferson” on AitF features Sherman Hemsley. The earlier statement about Isabel Sanford having the longer-established character is also correct: Louise first appeared in season 1, George in season 4.

I sit corrected.

Isabell Sanford was almost twenty years older than Sherman Hemsley and had a more established acting career. She’d had a lot of roles in TV and movies, whereas George Jefferson was Hemsley’s “big break.”

She could kick his ass.


Although, in his first appearance, Henry did claim to be George - as George didn’t want to step in Archie’s house - the deception was revealed by the end of the episode. After which Henry coming over in George’s stead whenever there was a conflict between the Bunkers and Jeffersons (well, between Archie and George - Archie rarely caught on to Lionel’s baiting him, and Weezy and Edith both tried to keep peace) became a rather odd little gag until Hemsley’s Broadway gig ended and he was free to appear on the show.

This, indeed, is part of how they decide billing. One of Sanford’s roles was, Tillie, the maid in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Michael Evans left and come back to The Jeffersons because of the success of Good Times which he co-created; he was replaced by actor named – Michael Evans, during his hiatus. He died at age 57 of heart failure.

IIRC he was listed with the regular credits- his episode count is lower than it shoud be as another actor took over the role mid series for a while for some reason.

Mike Evans was replaced by another Evans, but his first name was Damon. Same last name, different first. No relation.

Yes, you’re right. As soon as I walked away, I realized my error. Damon was actually an opera singer also.

He also played a young Alex Haley in the mini series Roots: The Next Generations.