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‘All in the Family’ Cast: A Look Back at the Bunkers and How They Changed Television

Plus, find out who almost didn't take the role and who became great friends in real life!

The All in the Family cast made a significant impact on television and popular culture. The groundbreaking sitcom aired from 1971 to 1979. Created by Norman Lear, the show tackled sensitive social issues with humor and candor, challenging traditional norms. The show was known for its daring approach to controversial topics, such as racism, sexism and homophobia, which were seldom discussed on television at the time.

The show is about the Bunkers, a lower-middle-class white family living in Queens, New York. The protagonist and source for much of the humor was Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O’Connor), a vocal and prejudiced blue-collar worker.

All in the Family was not only a critical success but also a ratings juggernaut, consistently ranking as the number one show during its early seasons. Ironically, the show was rejected by ABC due to its content, but luckily CBS picked it up.

Surprising Fact: The show’s creators, Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, were inspired by the British series Till Death Us Do Part and adapted it for American audiences.

All in the Family cast

Here, we revisit the amazing ensemble of characters and talented actors of the All in the Family cast who brought them to life.

Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker

Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker (‘All in the Family’ Cast)
1975/2001 Getty

Carroll O’Connor, who portrayed the lovable but bigoted Archie Bunker, was the heart and soul of the All in the Family cast. O’Connor won four Emmy awards for his part in the series.

Prior to his role as Archie Bunker, O’Connor appeared in several films in the 1960s, among them the World War II epics In Harm’s Way and The Devil’s Brigade.

After the show concluded, O’Connor continued to shine in the spin-off series Archie Bunker’s Place from 1979 to 1983. Additionally, he received critical acclaim for his role in the crime drama series In the Heat of the Night (1988-1995).

O’Connor and his wife Nancy were married for 50 years and O’Connor passed away in 2001 at the age of 76. His portrayal of Archie Bunker remains one of the most iconic characters in TV history.

Did you know?

Carroll O’Connor had a significant influence on the show’s direction, often improvising lines and providing input into the script.

Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker

Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker (‘All in the Family’ Cast)

Jean Stapleton‘s portrayal of Edith Bunker, Archie’s sweet and naive wife, was equally memorable. She won three Emmy awards for her standout role.

Before playing Edith, Stapleton was often seen on Broadway, with one of her biggest hits being Damn Yankees. She was also in the movie Cold Turkey (1971) which was directed by Norman Lear.

After All in the Family, Stapleton purposefully choose roles that were different than Edith. She even turned down the role of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Instead, she had guest roles on several TV series including Murphy Brown and Caroline in the City. She also appeared in movies like You’re Got Mail and the television movie Eleanor Roosevelt (she played the lead character).

Stapleton was married to William Putch and had two children, Pamela and John, and she passed away in 2013 at the age of 90.

Did you know?

Jean Stapleton almost turned down the role of Edith Bunker, but her chemistry with O’Connor convinced her otherwise.

Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic

Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic (‘All in the Family’ Cast)

Rob Reiner played the liberal and progressive “Meathead” Michael Stivic. He won two Emmy awards for his role.

Before playing Meathead, Reiner had guest appearances in several shows including Batman, The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies.

After All in the Family, Reiner went on to have a highly successful career as a director. He directed critically acclaimed films such as This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Stand by Me (1986), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Misery (1990) and A Few Good Men (1994). His directorial work earned him two Academy Award nominations.

Did you know?

Rob Reiner, despite his character’s clashes with Archie Bunker, developed a close friendship with Carroll O’Connor off-screen.

Sally Struthers as Gloria Bunker Stivic

Sally Struthers as Gloria Bunker Stivic (‘All in the Family’ Cast)

Sally Struthers played Gloria Bunker Stivic, the daughter caught between her conservative father and liberal husband. She won two Emmy awards for her role.

Prior to her role as Gloria, Struthers was in Five Easy Pieces (1970) opposite Jack Nicholson. She also appeared in The Getaway (1972) opposite Steve McQueen.

After All in the Family, Struthers had roles in several TV shows including a reoccurring role in Gilmore Girls.

She was also a spokesperson for Christian Children’s Fund, advocating on behalf of impoverished children around the world.

In her personal life, she married psychiatrist William Rader in 1977 and they divorced in 1983. They had one child together, a daughter named Samantha.

Did you know?

Sally Struthers, along with Rob Reiner, was an outspoken advocate for social and political causes, a reflection of the show’s emphasis on addressing real-world issues.

Danielle Brisebois as Stephanie Mills

Danielle Brisebois as Stephanie Mills (‘All in the Family’ Cast)
1978/ 2015Getty

Little Stephanie Mills joined All in the Family in season 9. She was a relative of Edith’s whom the Bunkers adopted after she was left on their doorstep. Actress Danielle Brisebois played the fan-favorite youngster.

After All in the Family, the child actress turned to a career in music. She has released solo albums, worked with the band New Radicals, and written songs for artists and films.

Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson

Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson (‘All in the Family’ Cast)

The Jefferson family were another great component in All in the Family, before they began their own long-running sitcom in 1975. Sherman Hemsley played George, the Jefferson patriarch, who also conflicted with Archie on a regular basis.

After All in the Family, Hemsley starred in The Jeffersons through 1985. He then was in NBC’s Amen playing Deacon Ernest Frye (1986-1991). He also played Judge Carl Robertson on the series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Hemsley passed away in 2012 at the age of 74.

Did you know?

Hemsley reunited with co-star Sally Struthers on the ABC series Dinosaurs.

Isabel Sanford as Louise Jefferson

Isabel Sanford as Louise Jefferson (‘All in the Family’ Cast)
1977/2004 Getty

Married to Sherman Hemsley’s character George Jefferson, Louise Jefferson was portrayed by actress Isabel Sanford in the All in the Family cast. She played the spunky character Weezy in All in the Family before moving to The Jeffersons.

Sanford made history in 1981 as only the second Emmy-winning Black actress. After All in the Family and The Jeffersons, the actress shifted to TV guest roles and her own short-lived sitcom, Isabel’s Honeymoon Hotel.

Sanford had her TV legacy celebrated with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2004. That same year, she passed away at the age of 86.

Mike Evans as Lionel Jefferson

Mike Evans as Lionel Jefferson (‘All in the Family’ Cast)

Mike Evans played Lionel Jefferson, the son of George and Louise. He had the most All in the Family episodes outside of the main four stars — frequently conversing and debating with Archie.

Evans created and wrote the popular series Good Times which aired from 1974-1979. His last acting role was in 2000 in the TV show Walker, Texas Ranger.

Evans died in 2006 at the age of 57 from throat cancer.

For more 70’s TV, click through the links below!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show Cast: Surprising Facts About The Beloved ‘70s Comedy’s Stars

Origin of ‘Nanu, Nanu’ and More Little-Known Secrets about the ‘Mork & Mindy’ Cast

See the Beloved ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Cast Then and Now

‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ Cast: See the Stars of the Southern Comedy Then and Now

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