Corine Cohen:Hi Marla. I have been a fan of your work since the Jeffersons. You were nominated four times for an Emmy for the role of Florence and many NAACP awards for your work in TV. While doing research on you I also found out that you owned a Jazz Club in LA. What was that like?
Marla Gibbs: Loved it! At the time, not a lot of musicians were being hired so I gave many musicians an opportunity to further their careers. I owned the club for 18½ years. The neighborhood started to change. I was buying food and no one was coming to eat it.
Corine: What a shame! I bet it was great food! You always steal TV shows and movies with your hilarious comedy – the Jeffersons, 227 and many films – and have not stopped working since the 70’s. Are you anything like the funny characters you play in real life and do you prefer to act or sing?
Marla:Yes, Florence was like my Aunt and Grandmother so I lived it. She came easy to me so I’m like Florence in giving smart answers, but I was also shy so I wouldn’t have dared to say some of the things Florence said.I prefer to do whatever I can do at the moment. Whoever’s hiring me at the moment…that’s what I’m supposed to do. My favorite is Drama. I’m doing that now (on Scandal) but also still doing Comedy on Hot in Cleveland.
Corine: Wow, I will have to check out Scandal and Hot In Cleveland. Must be fun to work with Betty White! I also heard you used to work for United Airlines answering telephones and stayed until you thought the Jeffersons was a hit. Is that true?
Marla: Yes, I stayed at United for 2 years while taping the show. Then the show asked me to take a leave of absence, so I did.
Corine: You always play funny, smart and powerful and sassy women, how would you describe yourself?
Marla:I would describe myself as sensitive, caring and considerate when it comes to other people’s feelings, so I can’t be like all the sassy characters in real life unless the script calls for it.
Corine: Love that! I wish this interview was in person! As a singer would you like to perform in a show on Broadway and if so, what would the dream role be?
Marla: I’m not that interested in performing on Broadway as a singer. I would ideally like to sing in intimate clubs and continue recording music. I wouldn’t mind doing Drama on Broadway.
Corine: Would love to see you live, in an intimate Jazz club and in a Broadway play!Let’s talk about your latest role. It has a great message about life and you steal the film can you tell us about your role?
Marla:I think my role was very rewarding, showing aspects of what’s gone on in the South with racial stuff. I also showed caring in my role for Jakes’ character to make sure he was on and stayed on the right path as a young man.
Corine: If you could be President of the United States what would you do to make the US a better place?
Marla:I would emphasize love and encourage loving one another. We are all one. We should not judge one another…we need to have more compassion.
Corine: I agree! What was it like working on the Jeffersons? It was one of my favorite TV shows growing up and you and Mr. Bentley were the most interesting characters (and the Mother in Law) any funny stories you can share? I also loved 227 which still can be seen on reruns any funny memories you can share?
Marla: Mr. Bentley and I were very close. We would improvise together. I lost track of him after the show. He moved to Martha’s Vineyard but we caught up one year in Martha’s Vineyard at a film festival and we enjoyed our time together. All the characters on The Jeffersons were close. We stayed in touch after the show. Mr. Willis and I were close. I hosted a party for him once after he had a heart transplant. Jenny and I stay in touch. She’s in North Carolina. I also was very close to Sherman until he passed. Everyone was like family on The Jeffersons.
The cast of 227 was very close as well. We did a show, which was a take off on Casablanca. Billy Dee Williams played my husband and Hal Williams played Bogart. Jackee Harry was so funny; often times, we would have to cut ‘cause our scenes were so funny and we would burst into laughter. One of my favorite moments was with actress Beah Richards. She played my Mother on 227. I was with her just before she made her transition.
Corine: Thank you for your time and for doing this interview, I wish it was in person you sound like an amazing and fascinating person.
Marla: Thank you for interviewing me.