By Yolanda Spivey
Esther Rolle was famous for playing the strong matriarch in the hit television series Good Times. She was also famously known to have walked away from the show at the height of its success due to the negative images that were being portrayed and played through fellow co-star Jimmie Walker. Esther Role was born on November 8, 1920 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Here are a few interesting facts about this great actress that may interest you:
Her family was large and in charge– Esther Rolle was the tenth of eighteen children, born to Bahamian immigrant parents. Two of her sisters were also well-known actresses. Her sister Estelle Evans, starred in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Learning Tree—and her other sister, Rosanna Carter, appeared in movies such as The Brother from Another Planet and Night of the Juggler. She also made guest appearances on Good Times, The Cosby Show, I’ll Fly Away and Law & Order.
Esther Rolle got the acting bug late in life– Esther Rolle is pure proof that it’s never too late to live your dreams. She started acting at the age of 42 after joining an African American dance troupe which she eventually directed. She appeared in her first film, Nothing But a Man, by the age of 44 and landed the role of Florida Evans in the hit television show Good Times when she was 54 years old. The rest is HERstory!
She was an educated woman– Esther Rolle attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. When she moved to New York City, she attended Hunter College and then to The New School. Finally she transferred to Yale University in New Haven Connecticut.
She fought to maintain positive images of Blacks on television– Although she spent the majority of her film and television career playing domestic servitude roles, Esther Rolle fought to keep positive images of Blacks, specifically women, on television. When she was offered the role of Florida Evans on the hit television show Good Times, she told the show creator that she will not take the role if the matriarch wasn’t married. Show creator Norman Lear respected Esther Rolle so much, he created the role of James Evans just to have her on the show. She was awarded a NAACP Civil Rights Leadership Award in 1990 for her role in trying to destroy negative stereotypes that often plagued Blacks in film.
She was more than just an actress– Esther Rolle released a musical album titled The Garden of My Mind in 1975. In addition to acting and singing, she was also a dancer.