"The Jeffersons" star Sherman Hemsley has died at the age of 74.
Sherman Hemsley, left, and Isabel Sanford in "The Jeffersons" (©CBS)
The actor passed away at his home in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday. He died at his home, police sources told People.
Born in Philadelphia, Hemsley got his break in show business in the early 1970s, making his Broadway debut in a production of the play "Purlie."
Bing video: Sherman Hemsley on 'Jeffersons'
It was during his stage stint that he caught the eye of TV writer and producer Norman Lear, who reached out to Hemsley and asked him to star as George Jefferson in the sitcom "All in the Family."
Hemsley was reluctant to quit the theater and held off on the role for two years before taking Lear up on the standing offer.
Although Jefferson was just a secondary character on the show, Hemsley's comedic timing convinced Lear to develop a spin-off series titled "The Jeffersons" in 1975, allowing the actor to really shine on camera.
The program became one of Lear's most successful projects and remains the longest-running sitcom with a predominantly black cast in U.S. TV history, airing from 1975 to 1985.
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"With the passing of Sherman Hemsley, the world loses one of its most unique comic talents and a lovely man," Lear said in a statement.
He also enjoyed a stint as a professional singer and released a single in 1989, titled "Ain't That a Kick in the Head."
While The Jeffersons was a decent (and certainly a long running) All In The Family spinoff, I'll always remember him as the perfect foil to Carroll O'Connor's Archie. Many of those debates/arguments in the Bunker living room were classics. Always got a kick out of the fact that his TV wife Isabel Sanford was two decades his senior in real life, yet they made for a great married sitcom couple.
A wonderful performer who created some unforgettable TV memories. He will be missed...
He finally moved up to the best delux apartment in the sky! Thanks for the laughs.
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