Isabel Sanford played Louise Jefferson on The Jeffersons from 1975 through 1985, and on All in the Family from 1971 through 1975.
Sanford was born Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford on August 29, 1917, in Harlem, New York City, the youngest of seven children. She remained in New York through her childhood and into adulthood, eventually marrying and giving birth to three children of her own.
As a young adult, Sanford began performing in theaters in NYC, including multiple off-Broadway productions. When her rocky marriage came to an end in 1960, Sanford moved to California and began acting in earnest.
Roles in national productions eventually helped Sanford land her first Broadway gig in The Amen Corner. From there, she moved into film work, which is where she caught the eye of All in the Family creator Norman Lear.
Lear cast Sanford as Louise Jefferson, and she brought “Weezy” to life as the strong, tough, but loving wife of local businessman George Jefferson, played by Sherman Hemsley. George was a tough character to deal with, but Weezy kept him on the straight and narrow for the most part, all while raising son Lionel and maintaining a career of her own as a social worker … not to mention helping George take care of their rental properties and get their dry-cleaning biz off the ground.
Back to the Small Screen
Years after The Jeffersons ended, Sanford reprised her role of Louise in a handful television shows beginning in the mid-1990s: on Roseanne in 1995, on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1995 and 1996, and on Candid Camera in 2004.
Sanford was nominated for Emmy awards for her work on The Jeffersons each year from 1979 through 1985, winning the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981 to become the first African-American woman so honored.
After a year of health problems, Sanford passed away on July 4, 2004, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.