HELLO AMERICA!—She won the hearts of millions of Americans during the long run of the TV hit show “The Jeffersons” which prompted another hot series “227.” Marla Gibbs arrived in Hollywood during the 1960s with only a ton of hopes and dreams.
“I can only say one thing when it comes to survival; you do what you have to, no matter what. Especially when you feel in your heart and soul that it’s the only way to win and achieve what you truly believe it’s something you were born to be or achieve,” Gibbs says.
The actress makes it clear that she realized even before leaving her native Ohio that there was a “change” of attitude concerning people of color in the country, especially following the shocking deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and then Robert Kennedy.
“It stirred up a tunnel of emotion inside of millions of people and a new determination for civil rights and all that it means suddenly enveloped people everywhere. There was a hunger, a need for human respect which would affect every American, not just those who controlled or ruled each and every facet of life in the country.”
The actress made it clear that one had to make a special effort in connecting with those who sheltered the same artistic dreams.
“It was important to know who had the same objective, motivated in the realization that one has to be prepared for any opportunity. It was good to see great talents such as Ethel Waters, Louise Beavers, Willy Best and so many others who were chosen for TV character work. After all, they made it, why couldn’t I do the same? Like anything else, you’ve got to plan and allow people to know what you could do as an artist. This is why places like the Ebony Showcase Theatre were invaluable because it offered a workshop, a place to experiment and create and develop one’s different levels of the arts. Like anything else, it takes work, patience when reaching for professionalism. And this is something I craved and needed to know when I auditioned for any kind of show.”
When Marla auditioned for the “Florence” character in “The Jeffersons” TV series, she felt quite at ease by the challenge. “First of all,” she reminded, “I had watched some of our greatest actors on stage, film, TV and I admired how they could easily fall in step with that kind of servant character and I decided to allow Florence to be a little more sassy with a level of comedy which I believed any audience might enjoy watching and I was right. Within weeks the fan mail poured in and my character received just as much applause as the other main leads on the show.”
After several successful seasons of the show, it was determined that it had run its course, therefore, it would be closed.
“Of course,” Marla admitted, “it was difficult to see the show end but I realized, we all did, that we had made history and there hopefully would be other doors open and there were. I was signed as the star of ‘227,’ a wonderfully funny show introducing some exciting talents as the late Paul Winfield and so many others. It was another beautiful opportunity work and learn about the craft I loved so much. When it finally ended, it was sad but I had learned a long time ago there was always tomorrow.”