Edit
Esther Rolle Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (66) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 8 November 1920Pompano Beach, Florida, USA
Date of Death 17 November 1998Los Angeles, California, USA  (complications from diabetes)
Birth NameEsther Elizabeth Rolle

Mini Bio (1)

Affectionately known for the role of outspoken maid Florida Evans on the hit 70s sitcoms "Maude" and "Good Times," African-American actress Esther Rolle proved to be as spirited and iron-willed off-camera as well. The gap-toothed, rather plumpish and plain-looking actress with the gravelly voice was born in Pompano Beach, Florida, the 10th child of 18 born to Caribbean farming immigrants. Her first important work came with the Negro Ensemble Company and over the years would earn a solid careworn reputation in such theater plays as "The Blacks," "Blues for Mister Charlie," "The Amen Corner," "A Raisin in the Sun" and "A Member of the Wedding." Ironically, her father insisted she promise him that she would never becoming a servant or maid in real life. She didn't, and yet Esther would have her biggest successes playing just those types of roles. She caught the eye of TV producer Norman Lear while performing on stage who cast her in the "Maude" supporting role in 1972. Audiences loved her so much as the feisty domestic who stood her ground, and then some, against her volatile and liberal-minded employer Maude Findley (Bea Arthur), that Esther earned her own spinoff series with 1974's "Good Times." Compelled to fight racial stereotypes, she insisted before accepting the series that a strong father figure be central in the show (actor John Amos). And while she still played the role of a lower middle-class maid, the show's emphasis was to be on her home and family life, not her outside work. Still, Esther left the show for one season when she was unhappy about the negative role model perpetuated by Jimmie Walker's jive-talking J.J. character, but later returned after the producers assured her that more responsibility would be taken. In other assignments, she won an Emmy Award for the TV movie "Summer of My German Soldier" and gained further respect for her work in Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (1978) and for her film work in Driving Miss Daisy (1990) and Rosewood (1997). Two of her sisters, Estelle Evans and Rosanna Carter, were also character performers. Afflicted with diabetes, Esther's health failed in the 90s and toward the very end of her life she was on kidney dialysis. The actress, who was divorced and had no children, died a little more than a week after her 78th birthday on November 8, 1998.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Oscar Robinson (1955 - 1975) (divorced)

Trade Mark (3)

Her Role As Florida Evans on "Good Times"
Her deep raspy voice
Gap between her two front teeth.

Trivia (66)

Originated the role of 'Dorcas Moulineaux' in Steve Carter's play, 'Dame Lorraine, " at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago on 27 March 1981.
Sister of Rosanna Carter.
Sister of Estelle Evans.
Graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1942.
Left Good Times (1974) after the 1976-1977 season due to her displeasure with the what she saw as the character of J.J. being a bad role model for young blacks. She returned at the beginning of the 1978-1979 season after the producers guaranteed that they would make J.J. a more respectable character.
Is an honorary member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Buried at Westview Cemetery, Broward County, Pompano Beach, Florida.
Last film was Train Ride (2000), an independent feature-film written and directed by Rel Dowdell, which was shot on location at the oldest African-American college in the US at Cheyney University, Cheyney, Pennsylvania. She was also in Dowdell's multi-award winning short film version of "Train Ride", done while he was a graduate student at Boston University. She was appearing in "A Raisin in the Sun" at the Huntingdon Theatre in Boston at the time.
When she died in 1998, she left an estate valued in excess of $1.7 million including $200,000 in cash a $400,000 home, $1,072,000 in treasuries. In addition, she owned 1,000 shares of Bethdames Corporation, several Mutual Funds, and 2% interest in El Toro, Ltd.
Best remembered by the public for her starring role as Florida Evans on Good Times (1974).
Acting mentor and friends of Ja'net DuBois, BernNadette Stanis, Jimmie Walker and Ralph Carter.
Graduated from Blache Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1938.
Temporarily attended Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, Florida.
Acting ran in her family.
Born and raised on a 10-acre farm in Florida.
Her former Good Times (1974) co-star, Jimmie Walker, was the only actor not to attend her funeral.
Rolle's birthplace, Pompano Beach, Florida, is about 10 miles North of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Was 25 years older than Ja'net DuBois, who played her best friend (from high school) on Good Times (1974).
Despite the controversy, she enjoyed working with Ja'net DuBois on Good Times (1974).
Inspired by her father, Rolle's elder siblings formed a drama group, that also toured Florida.
Her sister Rosanna Carter, passed away in 2001, at age 83, just 3 years after Rolle's death.
Was a diabetic.
Met John Amos on the set of Maude (1972), where he played Henry Evans, who later played her husband on Good Times (1974), as James Evans, Sr, for more than a couple of years, until his firing in 1976.
Producer Norman Lear approached her for her first choice for Florida Evans on Maude (1972), before Good Times (1974), when he saw her performances on Broadway, she accepted the role.
Rolle always dyed her hair black until letting it go gray in the early 1990s.
Of Bahamian immigrants.
Rolle was the tenth of eighteen children.
Before she was a successful actress, she worked in a traditional job in New York City's garment district.
Had a close working relationship with Bea Arthur on Maude (1972).
Had no children.
Rolle's family was gathered in the Bahamas; for her family reunion, in 1986.
Just before her death, Rolle was reunited with Bea Arthur on RuPaul's VH-1 talk show, where Rolle was brought out to surprise Arthur. This was the first time in over 25 years, they've last seen each other.
Aunt of Eliza, Ella and Estella.
Attended Yale University.
In 1939, when Rolle was age 18, she followed her two sisters to New York City. Her writing teacher talked her into taking acting classes instead.
Worked with Louis Gossett Jr. in episodes of both series: Good Times (1974) and Touched by an Angel (1994).
Her ex-Good Times (1974) co-star, BernNadette Stanis said in an interview, Rolle had fixed her really good and became a good rolemodel for her. Whenever Stanis was late, Rolle would pick her up in the car and would memorize some lines.
Was 19 years older than John Amos, who played her husband on Good Times (1974).
Did not retire from acting.
Her stepdaughter, Sherley Mae Robinson, from her ex-husband's previous marriage, is 16 years younger than her.
Her parents moved to Florida, sometime after their marriage.
She didn't start acting until she was age 39.
Her sister Estelle Evans died in 1985 and lived to be age 78.
Long lives ran in her family.
At the 1974 Tony Awards, she introduced her Good Times (1974) co-star, Ralph Carter, to sing the song, 'Sidewalk Tree.'.
Her sisters Estelle Evans and Rosanna Carter made guest-appearances on Good Times (1974), with Rolle.
Survived by her stepdaughter, 1 brother and 2 sisters.
Before she was a successful actress, she was a member of Asadata Dafora's dance troupe, Shogolo Oloba; where she was the troup's director.
Her father, Jonathan Rolle, was a farmer, and her mother, Elizabeth Iris Rolle, was a housewife.
Her character's last name on Maude (1972) and Good Times (1974), is also the same last name of one of her real-life sisters.
Was a heavy smoker.
Didn't have a successful acting career until she was 51; when she had a recurring role on Maude (1972). Since her character proved to be so popular, producer Norman Lear decided to have her in her own sitcom, starring on Good Times (1974), which Maude (1972) spun-off.
When Rolle received the lead role of Florida Evans on Good Times (1974), she insisted that the family be headed by a male figure.
Created the character of Florida Evans on Maude (1972) and its spin-off show, Good Times (1974).
Became the first woman to receive the NAACP Chairman's Civil Rights Leadership Award for helping raise the image of blacks.
A gospel singer, she had a 1-hit wonder, "I Can Feel Him Moving," on her Christian album, "The Garden of My Mind.".
Just before her death, her ex-Good Times (1974) co-star, BernNadette Stanis, attended her acting mentor's 78th birthday party, during an Awards Gala in North Hollywood, California.
Esther Rolle passed away on November 17, 1998, just 9 days after she celebrated her 78th and final birthday.
When she was hospitalized at Brotman Memorial Hospital in Culver City, California, she was hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine for 2 months.
In her final interview, she said on the day of her 78th birthday, that she was glad, very happy; for some reason, when she was younger. Rolle never thought she'd lived to be 50. She lived to be age 78.
Was named after her mother.
Esther Rolle passed away on November 17, 1998. 1 year after her death, the film Train Ride (2000) was dedicated to her.
Her mother, Elizabeth Iris Rolle, died in 1981. She lived to be 88.
She was a member of the Negro Ensemble Company.
On the day when she died, her publicist, Larry Calhoun, was going through her fan mail, and there was a request from a fledging Black Theater Company in Los Angeles, California.

Personal Quotes (2)

Black college-educated people got to where they are on the backs of domestic help, meaning their parents and grandparents. So people should not forget how they got to where they are.
[on her insisting to the producers of Good Times (1974) that the show have a husband and father figure] I told them I couldn't compound the lie that black fathers don't care about their children. I was proud of the family life I was able to introduce to television.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page