HELLO AMERICA!─So many new faces pop up every week in the TV and film industry. Sadly, they believe simply because they happen to be lucky enough to get a major role or character in a film or sitcom that it is a sign that they have made it. Instead of investing time in becoming better at the trade, they instead fall for all the publicity or whatever they manage to create about themselves became the reason of the moment they are receiving special attention or promotion.
This is so unfortunate, especially, talented naturally creative men and women of color. When signing their limited controlling contract with a production company, they completely lose it into a shallow world of illusions, believing that nothing could circumvent their movement in the industry at that point. This, of course, is extremely sad and professionally dangerous. Through the years when following such new faces as Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby, Diahann Carroll and so many other potential special talents, it was extremely sad to see how the shallow glow of fame affected good realistic thought. Marla Gibbs who came from a hard-working background is one of the stars who maintained the reality of who she is and always been.
Marla Gibbs is basically from Chicago, married there, eventually had three children, Donan, Joseph and Angela Gibbs and decided to come West following a divorce from husband, Jordan. She had been working as a United Airlines Reservation clerk. Wait a minute, the story really becomes extraordinary, Marla was married at age 13 and still completed high school and later attended Peters Business School. She even worked as a receptionist and switchboard operator in Detroit.
When finally relocating to Los Angeles, to prepare and educate herself for greater achievements, it became even more intense. The lady with a sarcastic wit who created the character of “Florence” the maid in the hit series “The Jeffersons” was well prepared to handle anything demanded of her in the film or TV industry.
Once in Los Angeles, realizing the importance of being prepared for anything she might undertake, the first move Marla made was, when deciding she might try acting, was to enroll at the Mafundi Institute and the Watts Writers Workshop located in the Watts area. She later appeared in local productions, including that of “Meda,” “The Amen Corner” and “The Gingerbread Lady.”
It was after doing a few minor film roles, including the blaxploitation” film, “Black Belt Jones I” in 1974 that she was signed for the hole of “Florence Johnston” in “The Jeffersons” series. It was supposed to be an on-shot deal, but the reaction to the character was so overwhelming, the producers decided to extend the role of “Florence Johnston,” the foil to the Sherman Hemsley character “George Jefferson.” Marla quickly made me understand that she didn’t give up her job with the airlines until the show was a certified hit.
When the show ended following several fantastic years of success, Marla was picked up immediately for the lead in her own series “227,” which was a huge success.
Norman Lear, producer, gave it the green light and the rest is history. Marla never forgot who and what she was; no matter how successful she has become, she is always ready to give a helping hand. Marla even starred in my pre-Broadway production of “I Feel Sin Comin On” which had its formal public reading at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. The audience filled the seats and spent an evening of laughter and memories anytime she opened her mouth. After all, to them she was still “Florence” giving a piece of her mind when necessary.