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Two classic sitcoms are being revived for one night on Wednesday, as ABC presents live re-creations of episodes of Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons.
The 90-minute special, hosted by legendary producer Lear and Jimmy Kimmel, has lined up an all-star cast headed by Woody Harrelson, Jamie Foxx, Marisa Tomei and Wanda Sykes. They will be joined onstage by Will Ferrell, Kerry Washington, Anthony Anderson, Justina Machado and several others.
The special, with the unwieldy title Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons, stems from a first-look deal Lear signed with Sony last year that included an option to reimagine his past shows and potentially mount reboots a la One Day at a Time, which starred Machado (and which Netflix canceled earlier this year after three seasons).
Lear, Kimmel, Lear’s producing partner Brent Miller, Ferrell, Adam McKay and Justin Theroux are executive producing the special. Ten-time Emmy winner James Burrows will direct both episodes.
Below is a rundown of who is playing whom on the live episodes, alongside the actors who originated the roles.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor): Woody Harrelson
Harrelson will play the bigoted, backward-looking Archie, embodied for more than a decade on All in the Family and spinoff Archie Bunker’s Place by O’Connor. Harrelson hasn’t appeared on a TV comedy since a recurring part on Will & Grace in 2001, but he won an Emmy and was nominated five more times for playing Woody Boyd on Cheers and in a guest appearance on Frasier. One big question: Can he do Archie’s Queens accent?
Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton): Marisa Tomei
Stapleton earned three Emmys for playing Archie’s long-suffering wife. Oscar winner Tomei is best known lately for playing Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) Aunt May in the Marvel universe; she began her career on As the World Turns and starred in the first season of A Different World.
Mike ‘Meathead’ Stivic (Rob Reiner): Ike Barinholtz
Archie and Edith’s son-in-law and Archie’s polar opposite, the liberal Mike spoke for the younger generation (and, arguably, Lear himself) on All in the Family. Barinholtz has starred on The Mindy Project and MadTV and in the film Blockers.
Gloria Stivic (Sally Struthers): Ellie Kemper
Archie and Edith’s daughter was frequently caught in between her dad and her husband, Mike. Kemper is coming off Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and was a regular on The Office for several seasons.
Also: Anthony Anderson as Henry Jefferson, Sean Hayes as Mr. Lorenzo
Black-ish star Anderson plays George Jefferson’s brother, a neighbor of Archie’s. Mel Stewart recurred on All in the Family as Henry and was mentioned but never appeared on The Jeffersons. Lorenzo (Will & Grace‘s Hayes) is also a neighbor of Archie’s, a part-time househusband who to Archie’s bewilderment enjoys domestic work. Vincent Gardenia played the role originally.
George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley): Jamie Foxx
Archie Bunker’s former neighbor who moved on up to the East Side earned Hemsley an Emmy nod in 1984 — seven years before Foxx made his TV debut as part of In Living Color. The Oscar-winning Foxx also had a self-titled sitcom on The WB from 1996-2001.
Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford): Wanda Sykes
The down-to-earth Louise — “Weezie,” as George called her — was often the voice of reason in the Jefferson family. Sanford earned seven Emmy nominations and one win for the role. Sykes, who recurs on Black-ish and just had a stand-up special debut on Netflix, is herself an eight-time Emmy nominee, winning one in 1999 as part of The Chris Rock Show‘s writing team.
Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs): Justina Machado
Gibbs, the sole surviving member of The Jeffersons‘ core adult cast, earned five consecutive Emmy nods for playing the family’s tart-tongued maid. In addition to One Day at a Time, Machado was a regular on Six Feet Under and has recurred on Jane the Virgin and Queen of the South.
Tom Willis (Franklin Cover): Will Ferrell
Cover was a character actor who had by far his longest run on The Jeffersons, appearing in 191 of its 253 episodes. Ferrell, one of the exec producers of the live special, shot to fame doing live comedy on Saturday Night Live and is a prolific producer as well as actor.
Helen Willis (Roxie Roker): Kerry Washington
Roker and Cover helped The Jeffersons break ground by playing the first interracial couple prominently featured on a primetime show. ABC favorite Washington starred on Scandal and also played opposite Foxx in the film Django Unchained.
Lionel Jefferson (Mike Evans): Jovan Adepo
Mike Evans originated the role of George and Louise’s son Lionel but departed after the first season, to be replaced by Damon Evans (no relation) through the next two-plus seasons. Mike Evans returned later in the show’s 11-season run. Adepo has appeared on Amazon’s Jack Ryan and HBO’s The Leftovers.
Jenny Willis (Belinda Torbert): Amber Stevens West
Torbert played Tom and Helen’s daughter and Mike’s girlfriend and eventual wife, which was a source of friction between their respective parents. Stevens West is coming off CBS’ multicamera comedy Happy Together and also starred on The Carmichael Show, which modeled itself in part on Lear’s socially conscious comedies.
Harry Bentley (Paul Benedict): Stephen Tobolowsky
Benedict played the Jeffersons’ eccentric neighbor, a prototypical Kramer-esque character — although instead of constantly entering the Jeffersons’ apartment unannounced, he frequently had the door shut in his face. Veteran actor Tobolowsky was also a regular on Netflix’s One Day at a Time and recurs on The Goldbergs and Schooled.
Also: Jackée Harry as Diane Stockwell
Diane Stockwell, an old friend of Louise’s, made a single appearance in the first episode of The Jeffersons in 1975, where she was played by Paulene Myers. Harry is best known for 227 (where she starred opposite Marla Gibbs) and Sister Sister.
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