She’s moved on up, to that de-luxe apartment in the sky. Isabel Sanford, who played Louise ”Weezy” Jefferson on ”The Jeffersons” for a decade, died Friday of natural causes at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, her publicist told the Associated Press. She was 86.
Sanford had been a New York stage actress before breaking into Hollywood with a role in 1967’s ”Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” as Tillie, the outspoken maid who tells Sidney Poitier she disapproves of his engagement to the young white woman whose family Tillie works for. That led eventually to her regular role as Louise Jefferson, who, along with her husband George (Sherman Hemsley) and son Lionel, were neighbors to the Bunkers on ”All in the Family.” In 1975, the upwardly mobile Jeffersons got their own spinoff, TV’s first show to depict an upscale African-American family. For another decade, the endlessly patient but strong-willed Weezy put up with George’s hot temper. In 1981, Sanford became the first African-American actress to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series; in fact, it was the only win for the ”Jeffersons” cast during the CBS show’s entire 1975-85 run.
In recent years, Sanford and Hemsley had continued to capitalize on their show’s enduring popularity by appearing often on TV together, either in guest spots on other shows or in commercials, most memorably a series of Old Navy ads. Sanford was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in January.