On Wednesday, Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei, 56, will take on the iconic role of Edith Bunker, originally played by the late Jean Stapleton, in ABC’s TV event Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons. It’s up in the air as to how this 90-minute production will be recieved by audiences, it’s a highly risky move to mess with two of the most beloved sitcoms from the 20th century.
The actors who signed on for this live TV event have some big shoes to fill, but the cast listed to perform couldn’t be a more talented, or more able bunch. Playing alongside Tomei as Edith’s bigoted husband, Archie Bunker, a role originated by Carroll O’Connor, is three-time Oscar nominee and five-time Emmy Award winner Woody Harrelson. Rounding out the new All in the Family reboot is Ellie Kemper as Archie and Edith’s daughter, Gloria Stivic, and Will Ferrell as George and Louise’s neighbor and friend, Tom Willis. Others appearing on the special include Justina Machado, Jovan Adepo, Anthony Anderson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jackée Harry, Ike Barinholtz, Sean Hayes and Amber Stevens West.
Tomei teased her upcoming role and revealed which episode they were recreating by posting a photo of Edith’s wig and the script on Instagram. It appears they are bringing back “Henry’s Farewell” from Season 4 episode six, which originally aired on October 20, 1973. The My Cousin Vinny star caption the picture, “So excited to be working alongside some very talented people on this live, 90-minute tribute to the classic sitcom ‘All in the Family’ and its spinoff ‘The Jeffersons’. Airing on @abcnetwork this Wednesday — make sure you tune in.”
In this memorable episode, which preempted the spin-off series, The Jeffersons, Tomei’s character Edith, is hosting a farewell reception at her home for Henry Jefferson (Mel Stewart), who was moving away to start his own dry-cleaning business. However, his brother George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) vowed that he’d never set foot in the Bunker’s home, because it’s a white man’s house. Amidst jokes that are scarily still relevant today, discussions about repressed black people and discrimination against women, George eventually arrives to give his brother a heartfelt toast, preceded by hilarious banter between him and Archie
Brent Miller, who’s co-producing the live TV event original show creator alongside Norman Lear, and ABC Late Night host Jimmy Kimmel, talked to Deadline about the new cast taking on these treasured characters. “They have really, over and over again, insisted that they do not try and replicate these roles or become Jean Stapleton or Carroll O’Connor,” Miller said. “That they take on these roles as who they feel Archie and Edith are, or George and Weezy.”