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Esther Rolle Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (67)  | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (3)

Born in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (complications from diabetes)
Birth NameEsther Elizabeth Rolle

Mini Bio (1)

Best known for the role of Florida Evans on the 1970s sitcoms Maude (1972) and Good Times (1974), African-American actress Esther Rolle proved to be as spirited and iron-willed off-camera as well. The gap-toothed 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 become 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 attention of TV producer Norman Lear while performing on stage who cast her in the Maude (1972) 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 spin-off series with Good Times (1974). 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 (1978) and gained further respect for her work in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979) and for her film work in Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Rosewood (1997). Two of her sisters, Estelle Evans and Rosanna Carter, were also character actresses. Afflicted with diabetes, Esther's health failed in the 1990s and toward the end of her life she was on kidney dialysis. The actress, who was divorced and had no children, died nine days after her 78th birthday on November 17, 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 (67)

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 in Westview Cemetery, Broward County, Pompano Beach (her birthplace), Florida.
Last film was Train Ride (2000), an independent feature-film written and directed by Rel Dowdell, which was shot on location at Cheyney University in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, the oldest Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) college in the United States. 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.
1938 graduate from Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA, a school still in operation as of 2020.
Temporarily attended Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, Florida.
Acting ran in her family.
Born and raised on a 10-acre farm in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA.
Her former Good Times (1974) co-star, Jimmie Walker, was the only "Good Times" regular cast member not to attend her funeral.
Rolle's birthplace in the city of Pompano Beach, Florida, is about ten miles north of the city of Fort 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 portrayed her husband, Henry Evans. Amos later portrayed the same character (but with a different first name) on the "Maude" spin-off, Good Times (1974), as James Evans, Sr., for more than television seasons, until his firing in 1976.
Producer Norman Lear approached her, after seeing her performances on Broadway, as his first choice for portraying Florida Evans on Maude (1972), and then the same character on the spin-off series Good Times (1974), she accepted the role.
Rolle always dyed her hair black until letting it go gray in the early 1990s.
Was the child of Bahamian immigrants to the United States.
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 biologic or adopted children of her own, but did have stepchildren from her husband's previous marriage.
Rolle's family 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 they had seen each in over 25 years,.
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 two different series: Good Times (1974) and Touched by an Angel (1994).
Her former Good Times (1974) co-star, BernNadette Stanis said in an interview that Rolle was a good role model for her and she became a better person because of this relationship.
Was 19 years older than John Amos, who played her husband on Good Times (1974).
Did not retire from acting before her death.
Her stepdaughter, Sherley Mae Robinson, from her ex-husband's previous marriage, was only 16 years younger than she was.
Her parents moved from The Bahamas to Pompano Beach, Florida, USA, sometime after their marriage.
She didn't start acting until she was age 39.
Her sister Estelle Evans lived to age 78, before her death in 1985.
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 troupe'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, and her character's first name, Florida, was the same name as the state of her birth.
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 feature her in her own sitcom, starring on Good Times (1974), which was a spin-off from Maude (1972).
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 former 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 birthday.
While 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, on the day of her 78th birthday, she said that she was glad and very happy. For some unknown reason, when she was younger, Rolle said she never thought she would live 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, having lived to be 88 years old.
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.
Best friend of BernNadette Stanis.

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.

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