Who was Sherman Hemsley?

The late American actor Sherman Alexander Hemsley was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA on 1 February 1938, meaning that Aquarius was his zodiac sign. He had 72 acting credits and is probably remembered best for starring as George Jefferson in all 253 episodes of the comedy series “The Jeffersons”, which also starred Isabel Sanford and Roxie Roker, and was created by Don Nicholl and Norman Lear. It follows an African-American family who’ve just become wealthy, and have moved into a luxury apartment building; the series aired from 1975 through 1985 and won nine of the 40 awards for which it was nominated.

Sherman was 74 when he died from superior vena cava syndrome at his home in El Paso, Texas on 24 July 2012.

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Education and early life

Sherman was raised as an only child in South Philadelphia, solely by his mother Arsenia Hemsley Edwards Chisolm who worked at a lamp factory; he only met his father when he was 14.

Sherman studied at Barrat Middle School prior to progressing to Central High School, eventually transferring to Bok Technical High School; he wasn’t a great student as he disliked studying, and thus dropped out aged 16 and joined the US Air Force.

After four years in the Air Force, Sherman returned to Philadelphia and began working for the US Postal Service, while honing his acting skills at night at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. He eventually moved to New York City where he continued working for the Postal Service, as well as practicing acting at night.

One of his first roles was portraying Gitlow in the Broadway musical “Purlie” in the first half of the ‘70s.

Roles in TV series

Sherman’s debut TV series role was playing George Jefferson in 15 episodes (1973-1978) of the comedy “All in the Family”, and some of his other TV series roles in the ‘70s were in the musical comedy “Joey & Dad”, the action adventure “The Incredible Hulk”, and the romantic comedy “The Love Boat”.

Sherman spent the first half of the ‘80s focused on shooting for “The Jeffersons”, and from 1976 through 1991, he portrayed the lead character Deacon Ernest Frye in all 110 episodes of the comedy “Amen”, was created by Ed Weinberger, and which starred Clifton Davis and Anna Maria Horsford. It follows Reverend Rueben Gregory who’s just become the new head of Philadelphia’s First Community Church, and the series won one of its six award nominations.

The first half of the ‘90s saw Sherman make a guest appearance in an episode of the fantasy comedy “What a Dummy”, the comedy “Designing Women”, and the musical comedy “In Living Color”; from 1991 through 1994, he portrayed B. P. Richfield in 20 episodes of the family fantasy comedy “Dinosaurs”, which starred Stuart Pankin and Allan Trautman, and was created by Michael Jacobs. It follows a family of dinosaurs living in a modern world, and the series won five of its eight award nominations. The remainder of the ‘90s saw Sherman appear in an episode of the comedy “Me and the Boys”, the comedy “The Ben Stiller Show”, and another comedy “In the House”.

He had only a single TV series role in the 2000s, voicing himself in the 2005 episode “The Father, the Son and the Holy Fonz” of the critically acclaimed animated comedy “Family Guy”, and Sherman’s final three roles were in all eight episodes of the 2011 comedy “Clunkers” (lead role), the 2011 episode “Curtis Jefferson” of the family comedy “House of Payne” and the 2014 episode “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” of the comedy “One Love” (released posthumously).

Roles in movies

Sherman’s debut film role was playing Tailor in the 1975 musical comedy “Dean’s Place”, and his following three roles were in the 1979 horror comedy “Love at First Bite”, the 1981 musical family comedy “Purlie” and the 1986 action comedy “Stewardess School”.

In 1990, he played Herbert Himmel in the popular action adventure comedy “Camp Cucamonga”, which starred John Ratzenberger and Chad Allen, and was directed by Roger Duchowny; it follows the lives of counselors working at a lake front summer camp.

Sherman could then have been seen playing supporting characters in the 1993 action family comedy “Mr. Nanny”, the 1994 comedy “New Year’s Rotten Eve” and the 1995 family comedy “Home of Angels”. In 1998, he portrayed Smythe-Bates Doorman in the romantic comedy “Senseless”, which starred Marlon Wayans and David Spade, and was directed by Penelope Spheeris; it follows a student whose senses have been enhanced by an experimental drug.

Sherman’s final three film roles were in the 2007 family drama “For the Love of a Dog”, the 2008 comedy “Hanging in Hedo” and the 2009 comedy “American Pie Presents: The Book of Love”.

Other credits

Sherman worked as an executive consultant on 11 episodes (1987-1991) of the comedy series “Amen”.

He sang the song “Club Fed Revival” in the 1990 movie “Club Fed”, the song “Movin’ On Up” in the 1995 episode “ZooTV at Night” of the series “The Ben Stiller Show”, and the song “Le Freak” in the 2002 movie “When Disco Ruled the World”.

Sherman received special thanks for the 2012 episode “Cazafantasmas, los Autenticos” of the historical comedy series “Special Collector’s Edition” and the 2012 TV special “The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards”.

Some of his final talk-show appearances were in “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, “Donny & Marie” and “Inside TV Land”.

Awards and nominations

Sherman won three of his six award nominations: a 1982 Image Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy Series, a 2004 TV Land Award for Favorite Cantankerous Couple and a 2021 Online Film & Television Association TV Hall of Fame Award, all for “The Jeffersons”.

He was also nominated for a 1984 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, for “The Jeffersons”.

Love life and relationships

Sherman was a highly secretive man who preferred to stay away from the Hollywood limelight, and some of celebrities even described him as reclusive.

He never spoke about his love life in public, and gave interviews only once in every couple of years; he gave an interview to Archive of American Television in 2003, revealing that it was hard for him to play George Jefferson in the series “The Jeffersons”, because of how different the character was from him.

At the time of his passing, Sherman was in a long-term relationship with American non-celebrity Flora Isela Enchinton; this was only revealed when his will was read, in which he described her as his ‘beloved partner’ and left everything he owned to her.

Some sources state that Sherman was gay, and that Flora was his best friend rather than girlfriend, but this remains unconfirmed.

Sherman didn’t marry and had no children.

Interesting facts and hobbies

Sherman was passionate about music, and in 1989 released his debut single “Ain’t That a Kick in The Head” under Sutra Records; his debut album “Dance” followed in 1992.

Man claiming to be Sherman’s brother Richard Thornton contacted media following Sherman’s death, claiming that he was the true heir to his estate; the legal battle between Richard and Flora ended on 9 November 2012, when Flora won. She was eventually forced to sell Sherman’s house, because she had no income to maintain it.

Sherman was 11 years older than his fictional son in the series “The Jeffersons”.

He starred in the reality show “The Surreal Life” in 2006.

One of Sherman’s favorite actors was Robert De Niro, and some of his favorite movies were “Cape Fear”, “Mean Streets” and “A Bronx Tale”.

Height, eyes and wealth

Sherman would’ve been 85 today. He was bald and had brown eyes, he was 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall and weighed around 165lbs (75kgs).

Sherman’s net worth at the time of his passing was estimated at over $300,000.

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