Marla Gibbs Biography
Marla Gibbs (born Margaret Bradley) is an American actress, writer, comedian, singer and producer born on 14 June 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Marla’s career spans five decades and is best known for her role as George Jefferson’s maid, Florence Johnston, in the CBS sitcom, The Jeffersons (1975–85) which earned her five nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
She studied at Wendell Phillips Academy High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side where she graduated in 1949. After high school, she moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she attended Peters Business School.
Marla began her career as a reservations clerk for United Airlines and was transfered to Los Angeles in 1969. She began studying acting as a hobby.
“It was just to take my mind off my troubles. If I’d never earned a living at it, I wouldn’t have cared.”
She got her first acting role in the early 1970s, in the blaxploitation films Sweet Jesus, Preacher Man and Black Belt Jones. In 1975 she got her first major role as Florence Johnston in ‘The Jeffersons’. Gibbs said in an interview that during her first two years on ‘The Jeffersons’ she still kept her airlines job.
In 1981, she starred in the show’s spin-off ‘Checking In’ and also in the NBC sitcom, 227 (1985–90) which she co-produced the latter series, played the lead role of Mary Jenkins, and sang the theme song. She also co-starred opposite Cole in the TV movie Lily in Winter.
She has played supporting roles in movies like; The Meteor Man (1993), Lost & Found (1999), The Visit (2000), The Brothers (2001), Madea’s Witness Protection (2012), Grantham & Rose (2015), and Lemon (2017). Through out her career, Marla has won a total of seven NAACP Image Awards.
Marla Gibbs Age – How Old Is Marla Gibbs
Marla Gibbs was born Margaret Theresa Bradley on 14 June 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, United States. She is 87 years old as of 2018.
Marla Gibbs Family – Marla Gibbs Parents
Marla is the daughter of Douglas Bradley, who was a mechanic and Ophelia Kemp, who worked at a grocery store, before working in a restaurant and later on, a minister. When Marla was four years old her parents divorced
Her mother, using her stage name Ophelia Kemp, left home to pursue a career as a popular radio evangelist in the Midwest. She once said in an interview that it was painful for her as she felt as though she was not needed.
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“It was very painful, I didn’t feel she needed me when I was young. I needed answers that only she could give me, and she wasn’t there.”
They later reconcilled although her mother died in 1967. Marla says that their relationship goes on despite her death.
“She lives through me, I mean, if cans can be recycled, why not spirits? She’s much more available now than when she was on earth and I couldn’t get her on the damn phone. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see her and start talking to her.”
She was raised by her father who died in 1974, she described her father as wonderful.
“He was just wonderful, but it wasn’t the same without a mother. I grew up weird—very sensitive and highly inhibited. I felt like I was born in the wrong time zone to the wrong people at the wrong place.”
Marla Gibbs Husband – Joseph Gibbs Marla Gibbs
Marla married her high school sweetheart Jordan Gibbs in 1955 but they divorced in 1973 after 18 years of marriage.
Marla has said that she felt a sense of displacement in her early adult years and marrying Gibbs was an escape hatch since she didn’t really know him. She said in an interview that her marriage was often turbulent. Marla said she needed freedom which lead her to shortening her name and filing for divorce in 1973.
“I needed my freedom. The point is you move on when you want to move on.”
Marla Gibbs Children – Marla Gibbs Son
She is a mother of three children, Angela Gibbs, Dorian Gibbs and Joseph Gibbs. Her daughter Angela Gibbs is also an actress. She appeared on the TV show Sanford and Son and movies such as Together Brothers, Drumline and Think Like A Man Too.
Her daughter, Angela Elayne Gibbs produced an award-winning play by Christine Houston entitled “227”, with Marla as the lead, at Marla’s own local Crossroads Theatre, which the actress founded in 1981.
Marla Gibbs Daughter
Marla Gibbs daughter, Angela Gibbs, is also an actress, director, producer, writer and acting coach. She has a recurring role on the AdultSwim comedy series, Black Jesus.
Angela has won two NAACP Image Awards for her theatrical productions which include the Broadway play, ‘Checkmates’ nd ‘The Meeting’. She was a senior writer for the Trumpet Awards for nine years. She has also taught at Spelman in the Drama Dept.
Marla Gibbs Net Worth
She has an estimated net worth of $2 million which she has earned through acting primarily from her portrayal as the sarcastic maid Florence Johnston in the popular 70’s/80’s TV sitcom, The Jeffersons.
Marla Gibbs Death – Is Marla Gibbs Still Alive
Marla Gibbs is still alive she not dead. On 14 June, She celebrated her 87th birthday.
Marla Gibbs Movies
|1973||Sweet Jesus, Preacherman||Beverly Solomon|
|1974||Black Belt Jones||Bartender|
|1991||Up Against the Wall||Louise Bradley|
|1991||Last Breeze of Summer|
|1993||The Meteor Man||Maxine Reed|
|1994||Lily in Winter||Maize Covington|
|1998||Border to Border||Dela|
|1999||Lost & Found||Enid|
|2000||The Visit||Lois Waters|
|2000||Stanley’s Gig||Eleanor Whitney|
|2001||The Brothers||Mary West|
|2005||Love on Layaway||Narrator|
|2006||The Ties That Bind||Delores|
|2006||The Heart Specialist||Ms. Overwood|
|2009||The What Goes Around||Ms. Lacey|
|2009||Afro Ninja||Aunt Mary|
|2009||Just Like Family||Mabel Jenkins|
|2009||Devil’s Land||Judge Martha M. Levine|
|2012||Who Killed Soul Glow?|
|2012||C’mon Man||Mrs. Crabtree|
|2012||Madea’s Witness Protection||Hattie|
|2013||Forbidden Woman||Mrs. Simmons|
|2014||Grantham & Rose||Rose Price|
|2015||The Man in 3B||Ms. Mamie|
|2017||The Last Revolutionary||Millie|
|2017||You Can’t Fight Christmas||Beverly Lawrence|
|2018||Please Stand By||Rose|
Marla Gibbs Tv Shows
|1975–1985||The Jeffersons||Florence Johnston|
|1975||Barney Miller||Mrs. McBee|
|1975||The Missing Are Deadly||Nurse|
|1976||Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers||Beth Euphrates|
|1979||You Can’t Take It with You||Rheba|
|1981||Checking In||Florence Johnston|
|1981||The Love Boat||Janet Dalton|
|1984||Pryor’s Place||Miss Stern|
|1990||Menu for Murder||Marty Hallard|
|1993||A Different World||Principal Shaw|
|1993||In the Heat of the Night||Lilly Baker|
|1993||Empty Nest||Josephine Douglas|
|1994||Lily in Winter||Maize Covington|
|1995||Dream On||Mrs. Perry|
|1996||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Florence Johnston|
|1997–1998||101 Dalmatians: The Series||Duchess (voice)|
|1997-1999||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Old Mother Hubbard / Grandmother (voice)|
|1998–2002||The Hughleys||Hattie Mae Hughley|
|1999||Martial Law||Dolores Parker|
|1999||Dawson’s Creek||Mrs. Fran Boyd|
|2000||Touched by an Angel||Millie|
|2001||Judging Amy||Zella Van Exel|
|2002||The King of Queens||Nana Louise|
|2002||The Rerun Show||Dr. Beamish|
|2004||Listen Up||Jackie Widmer|
|2008||Lincoln Heights||Hazel Roberson|
|2011||House of Payne||Florence Johnston|
|2012–2013||The First Family||Grandma Eddy|
|2013||Mr. Box Office||Florence Johnston|
|2015||Hot in Cleveland||Marcia|
|2015||American Horror Story: Hotel||Cassie Royale|
|2016–2017||The Carmichael Show||Francis|
|2017||Jalen Vs. Everybody||Grammie|
|2017||This Is Us||Lady in Diner|
|2017||Trial & Error||Mrs. Kratt|
|2018||The Thundermans||Sweet Gam Gam|
Marla Gibbs Twitter
Marla Gibbs Instagram
A lot of people were really excited to see you on “Scandal”
Marla Gibbs: People are stopping me all the time, saying they enjoyed it. And they want to know some of the secrets that I cannot tell them.
You’re going to be on the show again on March 12. Is there anything you can tell me about the episode?
Marla Gibbs: No (laughs).
Do you watch the show?
Marla Gibbs: I do.
What other shows do you watch?
Marla Gibbs: “Everybody loves Raymond” — even though it’s off, I watch the reruns of that. I was watching “Frasier,” but they took that off. I watch “Law and Order.”
You’re in the indie film “Grantham and Rose,” which was released on iTunes/Amazon last month. What else are you working on?
Marla Gibbs: I just finished shooting “Hot in Cleveland,” which is another one of my favorite shows. And of course Betty White is everybody’s favorite.
I got big hugs when I went to do the show — from her and the rest of the cast, which was wonderful because Wendie Malick, who is on the show, was also on “Frasier.” And [Georgia Engel] from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was in the segment with me and I was a fan of hers.
Do you have a preference between television and film?
Marla Gibbs: I like doing both. I like doing more serious work like “Scandal” because that’s how I started, but when I ended up in comedy, I said “I guess this is where I’m supposed to be,” and it turned out that’s exactly where I was supposed to be.
So you hadn’t originally started as a comedic actress?
Marla Gibbs: No, I was a dramatic actress.
I really trained in community workshops. I trained in Watts — in Los Angeles — at a place called PASLA (Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles). Then I went to Mafundi [Institute] and did plays there. I did work at Watts Writers Workshop. Margaret Avery had a theater called the Zodiac workshop and I did several plays there. When the audition for “The Jeffersons” came up that’s where I was.
What other acting did you do before “The Jeffersons”?
Marla Gibbs: I was in “Uptown Saturday Night” as an extra and “Lady Sings the Blues” as an extra. Then I decided I didn’t want to be an extra. The guy that would put us on wanted to call us back, and I said “No, I can’t come back.” He said “Why?” I said “Because I want to do what Diana Ross is doing.” He said “Don’t we all?” I said “Yes, but I’m going to.”
And we laughed about it later because I had him as a guest on “227.” But we just believed we could do that. I’d say I had some of the best training at Mafundi and PASLA. People always ask “did you study in New York?” I say “No, I studied in Watts.” I don’t think it matters where you are if you have a good instructor and you have a good workshop.
What were you doing before you started acting?
Marla Gibbs: I had been working for United Airlines for 11 years when I got “The Jeffersons” and I stayed with them an additional two years. I was doing both things. Because in my world, a bird in the hand is worth twenty in the bush, so I wasn’t ready to give up the airline yet. Besides I had unlimited passes.
How often were you working for the airline while you were filming the show?
Marla Gibbs: Every day. I worked part-time for the airline then. So I talked United into letting me come in at 7 because we’d finish the show at about 5 and I would get out. United was in downtown Los Angeles then, so I could catch the freeway and come up right next to United and be in my seat saying “Good evening, this is Ms. Gibbs. United Airlines — Ms. Gibbs, can I help you?” I was on the phone — reservations. Sometimes some people would say they recognize my voice. I’d just say, “really?”
Florence Johnston, your character on “The Jeffersons,” is so beloved by fans of the show. Is it true that she was only supposed to be a recurring character?
Marla Gibbs: It was supposed to be a one-time guest appearance. So I was very blessed that it turned into 11 seasons and a show for me.
That show was “227”?
Marla Gibbs: That show was “Checking In.” I don’t think the public got to see anything but the pilot. We did four episodes but the writers strike hit, and we were not able to go on. So I went back to “The Jeffersons.”
Out of all of your roles, is Florence your favorite?
Marla Gibbs: I would have to say that was my favorite and “227” was next. We have some fans that favor “227” over “The Jeffersons,” especially younger people, and some that favor “The Jeffersons.” But “The Jeffersons” actually has never stopped running, so now we have a whole new audience. Little children!
I was doing “The Hughleys” and the two children that were my grandchildren on the show, they came running in one day saying “we saw you, we saw you!” They had seen a re-run of “The Jeffersons.” I was in a department store and a Caucasian man walked up to me and he said “my son recognized you.” His son was three-years-old. I said, “Are you staying up late? What time do you go to bed?” (Laughs) Because we were on at night then.
We have people today that say “I watch you every week.” They’re watching “The Jeffersons” faithfully because they don’t like what else is on TV.
Both “The Jeffersons” and “227” were so impactful, particularly for audiences of color. Do you get that type of feedback from fans?
Marla Gibbs: I meet so many different people of different races who say “I grew up on you.”
“The Jeffersons” — we never considered ourselves a black show. We were mixed in the cast and all of our guest stars, mostly, were other races. We were reflecting people and we really reflected all of society.
We had a lot of good episodes. We touched almost everything on that show.
You had even more of an expanded role on “227”
Marla Gibbs: I had all rights, courtesies and privileges of executive producer. I had no title and no credit. And no money for that. But I didn’t care because I wanted to do it. That was one of the most rewarding experiences that I had because I wrote two or three episodes. I sat in on editing and I made decisions. I sat in on casting.
We had a slew of wonderful actors. Kelsey Grammer. Leslie Nielsen came with his little thing that you press and it makes you think somebody broke wind. He would wait for the moment somebody was about to sit down and he’d press it. He was incorrigible. I loved him. He was funny.
Which episodes did you write on “227”?
Marla Gibbs: There was one called “Rich Kid.” I wanted [the character] to die and they said no. I said “No, that’s what happens when you sell drugs. People lose their children.” He was a well-dressed young man in high school with Brenda (Regina King) and Calvin (Curtis Baldwin) and they were enamored with him. He had a fancy car that he was driving that he told his mother was his friend’s. But he asked Calvin to hold a package for him and he just gave him $50. All he had to do was give him the package. But his grandmother got the package. And then we realized he was selling dope. So I went over to tell his mother and of course she put me out. I told her about the neighborhood watch meeting. She came to the next one and she said he had been killed. And she said “Somebody help me because I’ve got another one at home. Somebody tell me what to do.”
And that’s where we ended because nobody knows what to do. We let it end like that.
What do you like to do when you’re not acting?
Marla Gibbs: Working out. I have a trainer. I had a foot infection so I had to drop the trainer for a while. Now it’s time to get the trainer back. I enjoyed that.
You’re 83 now?
Marla Gibbs: No, I’m 30. Born in ’31. You do the math and don’t tell me. I really live that. If I go to the hospital or the doctor — I’m 30. They ask me for my birth date, I put my birth date down. Then they ask me for my age, so I put 30. Because when people tell their age they start seeing themselves as that. I do not see 83 in my life. I don’t know what that is.
People start saying “I’m old” and they start acting old and next thing you know they’re gone. Or they stop living, they stop dreaming, they stop doing anything. My thing is that it’s never too late if you’re still breathing. I’m still vertical and I’m still on this side of the grass.
And I’m still 30, so there’s no excuse. I can do anything I want to do because it’s never too late.
Source: The Washington