Marla Gibbs on How She Got the Role of Florence Johnston on 'The Jeffersons' (Part 2)

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Part 1: https://youtu.be/VAZ16h2qIoE
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In this clip, famed actress Marla Gibbs spoke to E.D.I. about scouring the film lots in L.A. looking for work and handing out her resume. She went on to speak about taking acting classes at PASLA and doing plays. Marla also explained how her daughter Angela started getting work on TV shows and films, including Cleopatra Jones, and seeing how different their perks were. From there, Marla spoke about having a guest role on The Jeffersons as the family’s maid, Florence Johnston, and later becoming a cast member of the show. To hear more, including her chemistry with Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson, hit the above clip. <br> <h3>Auto Generated Captions</h3>

after that you you landed a more feature
role and sweet Jesus preached a minute
yes my girlfriend and I had a habit of
going around seeing where they were
shooting stuff and finding our way in
into it so we go to the studios and we
welcome I would get on the Lawton and
then we walk around to all the offices
without resumes like we thought that was
really going to do it and we ended up in
David O Selznick’s 20th Century Fox in
his daughters office she had an office
there and she took us in and set us down
and gave us a whole lecture on what the
business was about and we totally were
actresses that she has know your
students so she ran it down to us but we
appreciated it because she was very nice
speaking of students did you take any
acting acting lessons at all oh yes we
were at paz allah Performing Arts
Society of Los Angeles which was on
Vermont we were at 84th it was down by
86th Street two blocks from us from
where we started our school and we
learned that Tallinn Isha from room 222
had gone there so we wanted to go there
and so they charged us three dollars for
our clipboard and we were in we were in
a storefront and all the walls were
playing it black the stage was painted
black and we were just excited so one
day after class we just went and stood
on the stage and said we’re up here so
this all started when you were in your
early 40s was the m30 now yeah did you
did you have any reservations for
starting like most people felt like they
got to start young early in life in a
certain career no what gave you the
confidence to just say I’m gonna do it
now I didn’t say I’m gonna do it not
just said I’m gonna do it
you don’t think about age you think
about what you want to do and I was
taking classes and we were doing plays
and we were very excited about the whole
process
Roger Mosley was in the class at pasla
and then we went to Monday because the
man who was running paz allah had gone
to Washington DC and he came in charge
of I can’t think of the organization but
it’s a big organization and van tau
Whitfield was his name and so there was
an argument in the at past about who was
going to run it after him and so we got
tired of that and Roger Mosley had gone
over to Monday so we decided to go over
to Monday – and and while we were at my
funded they did a play native son or
where it was Writers Workshop which
Roger Mosely starred in and Angela and I
started it also and so we had a big
scene with a rat and who didn’t have a
rat so I made a rat out of grey cloth
and pipe stems and Angela said next to
me and watch me make it and I was
wrapping the tail with masking tape and
she got up ran and I said you saw me man
she’s afraid of rats Angeles is the
daughter there’s one is one of the three
children and her career and your career
started together actually she started
well we started together in plays and
things but she and she was in the
business before I was Wow she did
Cleopatra Jones while we read but fun
day
I can’t think the man’s name who were
who wrote it and produced it but he saw
her on the stage and he put her in
Cleopatra Jones and
I went to visit her on set and she was
in her own dressing room she had her own
what he called it yeah you know the
things we have when you go on so and I
was Anna basement changing clothes with
sweet Jesus preacher man I had no idea
how she got all that and then she was in
Sanford & Son
so we went to see her in Sanford & Son
and the thing starts to happen for me
but before that they were going for I
think she had the young nurses she
started and she had a motorcycle they
asked if she could drive a motorcycle
she said yes she got on her like when
she was going like three miles an hour
and it was a chase and you see the man
the bicycle runs then you see her going
it was hysterical then she decided
actually was not relevant so she went
off to college
and I stayed in the business and in his
disarray a time you landed Jefferson’s
yes I was I was working at the zodiac
theatre Margaret Avery’s workshop but I
had done to a through two or three plays
there so I was in the middle of a
production and I heard they were casting
for a new series of Jeffersons and my
agent by now I’m with comeback mine not
little cumber but Lillian living
Randolph I’m with her and I went to the
audition and I had been in Norman Lear’s
office twice before and it was this that
wasn’t there they talked all around me
and so so I was disappointed but this
time when I went in she was talking to
me because my agent had written a letter
to The Hollywood Reporter saying that
she didn’t understand why her people
were not seen like everybody else we
were like
revolving door in and out so now
everybody wanted to see us so they pay
particular attention to me I read this
script but it reminded me of my
grandmother and my aunt in Chicago so
that’s how I delivered it and she liked
it so she had me wait she took me over
to the producers I did it for them and
they liked it so by the time I got home
I had a call to come back and so the
rest is history I got the part but I was
just a guest star I was not on the
Sirius it was just a guest star part in
but you eventually became but I
delivered the line how come we overcame
and nobody told me and Norman like that
so much especially since my daughter and
my boyfriend fell out into the aisle
laughing what I said and he said oh that
was the two people and they were so
excited they I didn’t tell them that was
bad so they wrote something else for me
on the fifth episode and they wrote
something else on the eighth episode and
then they offered me the part so I I had
a contract for the next season for seven
out of thirteen Wow and and you you
literally stole some of those scenes
some of those episodes with legendary
actors like Sherman Hemsley and you know
everybody else steal anything from
Sherman well let’s say y’all met yeah I
met at the same level one and a lot of
those scenes what was that like what was
the chemistry like how did that was it
improv was it all scripted how did you
guys work that out well everything is
scripted but I would change the rhythm
of it my thing it has to be in my rhythm
and the directors say we know we know
it’s not in your rhythm so sometimes I
would take mr. Jefferson where they had
it in the front and put it in the middle
or put it at the end so that it flowed
because I would tell them black people
flow I said Jewish people punch things
Italian people do another thing as
but we say the whole sentence you know
as if my grandma said if you don’t feel
get up from them up knock you to the
moon just say the whole thing everybody
understands that rhythm because they’ve
heard it right they don’t have to be
black but they’ve heard somebody black
said they know the rhythm if you’re
sitting on a bus and you hear say a
Hispanic person talking and but they’re
not Hispanic as long as they’re in the
right rhythm you never turn around but
if if they don’t sound right you turn
around and see who’s talking same with
Asians because we all understand each
other’s rhythm we can’t speak it but we
understand it right so that’s what I
would tell them so then they would leave
me alone because out of that one since I
might get two laughs instead of one or
get three laughs instead of one so they
like that so they kind of left me alone
when I would that that was good
because you obviously was was definitely
successful at doing it your way what
what some was some of your more fonder
memories of of that time and doing that
show well especially working with George
George we had a chemistry and he would
say sometimes Marla I don’t know I don’t
know the lines that’s yes you do he said
he’s an RD enough I said your mind took
a picture of me the first time you saw
them and they’re in there and they’ll
come out as long as you stops if you
stop saying I don’t know my lines I said
once you say I know it I said I’ll tell
you what
I’ll say something and you you just wait
till my lips stop moving and if it makes
sense you respond to what I say that’s
all he said I knew that and that’s how
we performed all the time sometimes he
would forget the line and I wouldn’t
know he forgot it and I’m waiting for
him to to speak I say either bring my
neighbor’s kids over here and waiting
and waiting and waiting
finally he’d say why he couldn’t think
of why I said because this place is
better than Zoo but while we’re waiting
I’m just looking at you and gum and he’s
looking at me and we started getting
laughs I was just looking at each other
so they left it in there so it worked
was there any uh any friction on a set
with was there anybody that was
difficult to work with no not really
Isabelle I think was a little upset
because we were getting so much
attention and people don’t realize what
they’re saying listen you make the show
they say stuff like that in front of her
which was not nice and then they tried
paying her less than they paid Sherman
but her agents made her stay in her room
and not come to the set until they got
the money she was a nervous wreck but
she stayed here and sometimes she would
get upset with me because I changed the
lines while we’re working
I’d end up changing the lines and she
said is that what you’re gonna say I
said not if you don’t want me to miss
Jefferson that would tickle her then we
go so I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t change
it I make make it what she wanted to it
to be

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