Marla Gibbs

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Marla Gibbs
Marla Gibbs (50094699678).jpg
Gibbs at the NAACP convention, 2000.
Margaret Theresa Bradley

(1931-06-14) June 14, 1931 (age 91)
  • Actress
  • singer
  • comedian
  • writer
  • television producer
Years active1973–present
Known forFlorence JohnstonThe Jeffersons
Mary Jenkins – 227
Jordan Gibbs
(m. 1955; div. 1973)
RelativesSusie Garrett (sister)

Marla Gibbs (born Margaret Theresa Bradley; June 14, 1931)[1] is an American actress, singer, comedian, writer and television producer, whose career spans five decades. Gibbs is known for her role as George Jefferson's maid, Florence Johnston, in the CBS sitcom, The Jeffersons (1975–1985), for which she received five nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

Gibbs also starred in the show's spin-off Checking In (1981) and the NBC sitcom, 227 (1985–1990); Gibbs co-produced the latter series, played the lead role of Mary Jenkins, and sang the theme song.[2] Gibbs has won seven NAACP Image Awards.[3] In later years, Gibbs played supporting roles in films The Meteor Man (1993), Lost & Found (1999), The Visit (2000), The Brothers (2001), Madea's Witness Protection (2012), Grantham & Rose (2015), and Lemon (2017) and the Shondaland produced TV shows Station 19 (2018) and Grey's Anatomy (2022). In August 2021, Gibbs began a run as Olivia Price on the NBC daytime drama, Days of Our Lives.


Early life and education[edit]

Marla Gibbs was born Margaret Theresa Bradley in Chicago, Illinois at Cook County Hospital. The middle of three sisters, Gibbs was raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the city's south side. Her father, Douglas Bradley, a native of Waterproof, Louisiana (d. 1947) was a self-taught mechanic who owned an ice company. Her mother, Ophelia Birdie (née Kemp; d. 1967) was a businesswoman who occasionally ran numbers in the gambling trade.[4] In 1936, Gibbs's parents divorced, with her mother remarrying Charles Cady and relocating to Detroit, Michigan. Gibbs and her siblings remained in Chicago with their father and grandmother Hattie Sims.[5] Gibbs attended Corpus Christi Elementary School, graduating in 1945.[5]

After graduating from elementary school, Gibbs attended St. Elizabeth High School, where she completed her freshman year and first semester of her sophomore year. During the middle of her sophomore year, Gibbs transferred to Wendell Phillips Academy High School. When she was 16, her father died, and Gibbs was sent to live with her mother and step-father in Detroit, Michigan where she attended Northern High School for a semester during her junior year.[5] After months in Detroit, Gibbs returned to Chicago, re-enrolling at Phillips where she graduated in June 1949.[6][7] Several years later, Gibbs returned to Detroit, Michigan, where she attended Peters Business School.


In 1963, Gibbs relocated to Los Angeles to recuperate from an ulcer, and began working as a reservations agent for United Airlines.[8] She first acted in local Los Angeles black theater before she got her first acting job in the early 1970s, in the blaxploitation films Sweet Jesus, Preacher Man and Black Belt Jones. In 1975, she was cast as Florence Johnston, the family's maid, in the CBS comedy series The Jeffersons. For the first two years of her acting job with CBS, Gibbs continued working at her job as a United Airlines reservations agent.[8][9] She would work at the CBS television studio during the day and then go to United Airlines, where she worked the night shift.[8] When the series became an established success, CBS requested that she take a leave of absence from her job at United Airlines.[9]

Gibbs's performance on the series garnered her five nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and one nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film. In 1981, she starred in the short-lived spin-off of The Jeffersons, titled Checking In.[3] Gibbs responded in a 2015 interview on Broadway Showbiz, when asked if she'd based any of her characters on real-life people: "Yes, Florence was like my aunt and grandmother so I lived it. She came easy to me so I'm like Florence in giving smart answers, but I was also shy so I wouldn't have dared to say some of the things Florence said. I prefer to do whatever I can do at the moment. Whoever's hiring me at the moment...that's what I'm supposed to do. My favorite is drama. I'm doing that now (on Scandal), but also still doing comedy on Hot in Cleveland."[9]

In 1985, when The Jeffersons was cancelled after 11 seasons, Gibbs was the lead actress in the NBC sitcom, 227. 227 was adapted from a play directed by Cambridge Players' then-president Ed Cambridge and was presented to NBC by Cambridge, at Gibbs's Crossroads Theater in L.A. He served as artistic director. The series aired until 1990, producing 116 episodes. Two decades later, Gibbs teamed again with former 227 co-star Jackée Harry in The First Family, where Gibbs had a recurring role as Harry's on-screen mother Grandma Eddy. Then, she again worked with Harry in the independent film Forbidden Woman.

Gibbs had a number of supporting film roles, and guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, Touched by an Angel (with Della Reese), Judging Amy, ER, and Southland.[10] From 1998 to 2002 she had a recurring role on The Hughleys. In 2012, Gibbs appeared in the Tyler Perry film Madea's Witness Protection,[11] and in 2014 she starred in the independent film, Grantham & Rose.[12][13]

Gibbs in 2012.

In 2015, Gibbs made two appearances in the Shonda Rhimes' drama series, Scandal.[14] She later guest starred on Hot in Cleveland, American Horror Story: Hotel and This Is Us. In 2018, she was cast in a recurring role on the ABC drama series Station 19.[15] Gibbs also has had starring roles in two television pilots: Old Soul alongside Ellen Burstyn and Rita Moreno for NBC in 2014, and ABC's Jalen Vs. Everybody in 2017.[16] In film, she co-starred in Lemon and Please Stand By.

Dawnn Lewis and Marla Gibbs receiving honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Next Dimension University on August 17, 2019.

In 2019, Gibbs reprised her role as Florence on Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons, less than a month before her 88th birthday.[17]

In 2021, Gibbs began appearing as Olivia Price in a recurring role on Days of Our Lives. That same year, for her contributions to the television industry, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[18]

Other ventures[edit]

Gibbs owned a jazz club in South Central L.A. called Marla's Memory Lane Jazz and Supper Club from 1981 to 1999. As a singer, she released a number of albums.[citation needed] In 1990, she moved her Crossroads Arts Academy and Theatre into the former Leimert Theatre in Los Angeles.[19] Plans included the construction of a second stage, but the project ended in debt in June 1997.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Gibbs has been married once and had three children. Gibbs was married to her high school sweetheart Jordan Gibbs from 1955 to 1973; the couple had three children:[3] Angela, Dorian and Joseph. Her older sister is the late actress Susie Garrett, who played Cherie's grandmother Betty Johnson on the NBC series Punky Brewster. Her daughter Angela, also an actress, appeared on the TV show Sanford and Son and films such as Together Brothers, Drumline and Think Like A Man Too. On July 31, 2014, Gibbs attended the Leimert Park Village Book Fair in Los Angeles, California, to pay tribute to Maya Angelou, who died on May 28, and Ruby Dee, who died on June 11.[21] On January 11, 2016, Gibbs and former 227 co-star, Jackée Harry, attended the funeral of Grammy Award-winning singer Natalie Cole at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, California.[22] Gibbs co-starred opposite Cole in the television film Lily in Winter.[23]



Year Title Role Notes
1973 Sweet Jesus, Preacherman Beverly Solomon
1974 Black Belt Jones Betty Uncredited
1977 Passing Through Secretary
1991 Up Against the Wall Louise Bradley
1991 Last Breeze of Summer Mary Short film
1993 The Meteor Man Maxine Reed
1994 Lily in Winter Maize Covington
1998 Border to Border Dela
1999 Foolish Odetta
1999 Lost & Found Enid
2000 The Visit Lois Waters Method Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
2000 Stanley's Gig Eleanor Whitney
2001 The Brothers Mary West
2005 Love on Layaway Narrator
2006 The Ties That Bind Delores Short film
2006 The Heart Specialist Mrs. Underwood
2009 The What Goes Around Ms. Lacey Short film
2009 Afro Ninja Aunt Mary
2009 Just Like Family Mabel Jenkins
2009 Devil's Land Judge Martha M. Levine
2010 Sunnyview Mrs. Harris Short film
2012 Who Killed Soul Glow? Nadine
2012 C'mon Man Mrs. Crabtree
2012 Madea's Witness Protection Hattie
2013 Forbidden Woman Mrs. Simmons
2014 Grantham & Rose Rose Price
2015 The Man in 3B Ms. Mamie
2016 Second Sight Nana
2017 Lemon Lilly
2017 The Last Revolutionary Millie
2017 You Can't Fight Christmas Beverly Lawrence
2018 Please Stand By Rose
2018 Love Jacked Rose
2018 HeadShop Mrs. Keys
2019 El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie Jean
2021 Alone Together Anna
2022 Spirit Halloween: The Movie Grandma G


Year Title Role Notes
1975–1985 The Jeffersons Florence Johnston Series regular, 207 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1981-1985)
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1985)
Nominated — TV Land Award for Favorite Made-for-TV Maid
1975 Barney Miller Mrs. McBee Episode: "Vigilante"
1975 The Missing Are Deadly Nurse Television film
1976 Arthur Hailey's The Moneychangers Beth Euphrates Miniseries
1979 You Can't Take It with You Rheba Television film
1981 Checking In Florence Johnston Series regular, 4 episodes
1981 The Love Boat Janet Dalton Episode: "The Incredible Hunk/Isaac, the Marriage Counselor/Jewels & Jim"
1984 Pryor's Place Miss Stern 3 episodes
1985–1990 227 Mary Jenkins Series regular, 115 episodes
1990 Menu for Murder Marty Hallard Television film
1993 A Different World Principal Shaw Episode: "To Whit, with Love"
1993 In the Heat of the Night Lilly Baker Episode: "A Baby Called Rocket"
1993 Empty Nest Josephine Douglas Episode: "Mother Dearest"
1994 Lily in Winter Maize Covington Television film
1995 Dream On Mrs. Perry Episode: "Little Orphan Eddie"
1995 Burke's Law Jessica Wallace Episode: "Who Killed the Hollywood Headshrinker?"
1995 Martin Miss Minnie Episode: "Housekeeper from Hell"
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
1996 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Florence Johnston Episode: "I, Done: Part 2"
1997–1998 101 Dalmatians: The Series Duchess (voice) 8 episodes
1997–1999 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Old Mother Hubbard / Grandmother (voice) 2 episodes
1998–2002 The Hughleys Hattie Mae Hughley 16 episodes
1999 Martial Law Dolores Parker 2 episodes
1999 Dawson's Creek Mrs. Fran Boyd Episode: "First Encounters of the Close Kind"
2000 Touched by an Angel Millie Episode: "The Invitation"
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
2001 Judging Amy Zella Van Exel Episode: "Between the Wanting and the Getting"
2002 The King of Queens Nana Louise Episode: "Patrons Ain't"
2002 The Rerun Show Dr. Beamish Episode: "The Facts of Life: Shoplifting/The Jeffersons: A Bedtime Story"
2002 Arliss Mrs. Jones Episode: "Profiles in Agenting"
2004 Listen Up Jackie Widmer Episode: "Thanksgiving"
2004–2005 Passions Aunt Irma Recurring role
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
2005 ER Cherise Barnes Episode: "Only Connect"
2005 Cold Case Georgie Episode: "Best Friends"
2008 Lincoln Heights Hazel Roberson Episode: "The Day Before Tomorrow"
2011 House of Payne Florence Johnston Episode: "Curtis Jefferson"
2012 Southland Ms. Miller Episode: "Underwater"
2012–2013 The First Family Grandma Eddy 11 episodes
2013 Mr. Box Office Florence Johnston Episode: "The Golden Apple"
2014 Old Soul Agnes Pilot
2015 Scandal Rose 2 episodes
2015 Hot in Cleveland Marcia Episode: "Cleveland Calendar Girls"
2015 American Horror Story: Hotel Cassie Royale Episode: "She Wants Revenge"
2016 Childrens Hospital Flossie Episode: "Doctor Beth"
2016–2017 The Carmichael Show Francis 2 episodes
2017 Jalen Vs. Everybody Grammie Pilot
2017 This Is Us Theresa Episode: "I Call Marriage"
2017 Teachers Mrs. Potts Episode: "Snap Judgement"
2017–2018 Black-ish Mabel 2 episodes
2017 Trial & Error Mrs. Kratt 2 episodes
2018 Beyond Edna Episode: "Six Feet Deep"
2018 The Thundermans Sweet Gam Gam Episode: "Cookie Mistake"
2018 Station 19 Edith 3 episodes
2018 Rel Miss Jenkins Episode: "Laundry Room"
2018 NCIS Rosie Brown Episode: "Beneath the Surface"
2019 The Neighborhood Miss Simpson Episode: "Welcome To The Yard Sale"
2019 Live in Front of a Studio Audience Florence Johnston Episode: “Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons”
2019 A Black Lady Sketch Show Mary Jenkins Episode: "3rd & Bonaparte Is Always in the Shade"
2019 One Fine Christmas Alice Television film
2019 Bless This Mess Belle Episode: "Goose Glazing Time"
2020 One Day at a Time Mrs. Jones Episode: "One Halloween at a Time"[24]
2020 The Last O.G. Mama Jarvis Episode: "Ballin"
2021 Young Sheldon Doris Episode: "The Geezer Bus and a New Model for Education" (Season 4, Episode 13)
2021–present Days of Our Lives Olivia Price
2022 Grey's Anatomy Episode: "S19E1Everything Has Changed"


  1. ^ International Television & Video Almanac. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 186. ISBN 9780900610813.
  2. ^ McCann, Bob (October 30, 2009). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. ISBN 9780786458042. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Marla Gibbs". Yahoo Movies. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  4. ^ "Marla Gibbs Biography". Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c The HistoryMakers, Marla Gibbs.Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  6. ^ Chicago Tribune, Actress, flier share life lessons at Bronzeville high school, By By Dawn Rhodes and Tribune reporter, Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2011
  7. ^ Maudlyne Ihejirika. "HistoryMakers-bringing-actress-Marla-Gibbs-to-Phillips-High". Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Hall, Carla (October 30, 1978). "Marla Gibbs, Maid for TV". Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c "Interview With Marla Gibbs". February 14, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "Marla Gibbs to Guest-Star on Southland". TV Guide. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  11. ^ "Latest Church & Entertainment News". The Church Lady Blogs. Archived from the original on October 13, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  12. ^ "Marla Gibbs set for 'Grantham and Rose'". Variety. August 2, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  13. ^ Tambay A. Obenson (November 20, 2013). "Watch Marla Gibbs, Tessa Thompson, Jake T. Austin In Trai - Shadow and Act". Shadow and Act. Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  14. ^ Webb, Matt (February 5, 2015). "'Scandal' Season 4 Recap — Fitz Declares War to Save Olivia". Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  15. ^ Hipes, Patrick (March 6, 2018). "'Station 19': Marla Gibbs Set For Multi-Episode Arc On ABC's 'Grey's Spinoff". Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  16. ^ Schwindt, Oriana (February 6, 2017). "Jalen Rose ABC Comedy Pilot Casts Anna Maria Horsford, Marla Gibbs". Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  17. ^ Roots, Kimberly (May 23, 2019). "The Jeffersons Vet Marla Gibbs Reprises Role of Florence in Surprise Appearance". TVLine. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  18. ^ "MARLA GIBBS ON HER DAYS RUN". Odyssey Magazine Publishing Group Inc. August 30, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Shirley, Don (June 21, 1990). "Ambitious Plans for Marla Gibbs' Crossroads Facility : Theater: The TV star moves her Crossroads Academy to a new home and launches a fund-raising drive". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  20. ^ "Gibb's theatrical vision sinks under pile of debt". Deseret News. August 22, 1997. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  21. ^ "L.A. Book fair to honor Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee | Florida Courier". Archived from the original on January 1, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  22. ^ "La Me Ln Chaka Khan Natalie Cole Funeral". Los Angeles Times. January 11, 2016. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  23. ^ "Lily In Winter (TV Movie 1994)". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  24. ^ Schwartz, Ryan (February 27, 2020). "One Day at a Time: Marla Gibbs Cast in Season 4 Halloween Episode, Reuniting With Jeffersons Creator Norman Lear". TVLine.

External links[edit]