She definitely moved on up! Marla Gibbs has become a sitcom queen in her own right after starring on two beloved, long-running shows in the 1970s and 1980s. Now, she’s opening up about her breakout role as Florence Johnston — the quick-witted, sassy housekeeper on the legendary TV series The Jeffersons and how it changed her life.
“[The Jeffersons] brought me a lot of love that was missing in my life,” the 86-year-old exclusively reveals to Closer. “People still tell me ‘I love you,’ and big, grown men will say, ‘I gotta have a hug, Ms. Gibbs’ — and I’ll hug them!”
The cast of The Jeffersons .
The series — which was a spin-off of the 1970s sitcom All in the Family — ran from 1975 to 1985 and throughout the 10 years that the show was on the air, Marla earned five Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. After the series was canceled, she went on to star in 227 from 1985-1990, alongside Jackée Harry.
Throughout the ’90s, Marla had guest appearances on other popular TV shows like Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Dawson’s Creek, Touched by an Angel, and The King of Queens. But in 2006, she suffered a brain aneurysm and she credits her miraculous recovery to her daughter Angela — who also works as an actress.
Marla Gibbs on the set of Blackish.
“My daughter brought me to a doctor who was an expert in aneurysms. She was my advocate and was with me all the time. I did rehab, but went through depression when I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything again,” Marla explains.
But with the support of her family, Marla recovered and went back to work as an actress. In the past couple of years, she’s had guest roles on some of TV’s biggest shows — including Scandal, This Is Us, black-ish, and The Carmichael Show.
“I looked at myself in the mirror and had to figure out who that little lady was. So I got up and decided I had to do something,” she says about the turning point in her recovery. “I got to do Scandal, and I’m working more than ever.”
For more on Marla, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and sign up for our newsletter!