Emmy-winning actress Isabel Sanford – best remembered for playing Louise “Weezie” Mills Jefferson on All in the Family and its successful spinoff The Jeffersons – died of natural causes Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her manager tells the Associated Press. She was 86.
Sanford was a Broadway actress for three decades before she headed to California, where she was part of the Ebony Showcase Theater and later made movies and appeared on TV.
In 1967, she played the sharp-tongue maid Tillie in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, memorably demonstrating “black power,” as Tillie said, by telling off Sidney Poitier’s character for wanting to marry the daughter of parents played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
In 1971, she began playing Archie Bunker’s unwanted neighbor on All in the Family. The Jeffersons, which shifted the action from the Bunkers’ blue-collar Queens neighborhood to the Jeffersons’ new Upper East Side apartment, kicked off in 1975 and ran 11 seasons.
More recently, Sanford and her TV husband, Sherman Hemsley (who played the boisterous George Jefferson), appeared in commercials for Old Navy stores and for Nick at Nite, when the cable network began running Jeffersons episodes.
Earlier this year, Sanford, who was divorced with three children, was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
At the time, the native New Yorker said she was honored to have her own star, AP reports.
As Sanford put it, “Here with stars in my eyes – something that I dreamed about when I was nine years old. There are others that deserve it, but let everybody get their own.”