‘All in the Family’: One Star Explained Why Cast ‘Didn’t Have to Do a Lot’ to Make Show Great

by Joe Rutland

If you are looking for a secret ingredient to the greatness of “All in the Family,” then actor-director Rob Reiner might have an answer.

Reiner, who played Michael Stivic on the fabled CBS sitcom, happened to tap into a little acting magic thanks to costar Carroll O’Connor. Obviously, O’Connor played Archie Bunker, who managed to rile up Michael time and time again.

Now Reiner talked about this a little bit more in-depth during a 2014 interview with Film Linc. The interview took place before Reiner was going to receive the Chaplain Award, named for actor-director Charlie Chaplin.

‘All in the Family’ Lead Star Taught Reiner About Using Good Script

“What I did learn from ‘All in the Family’ and from Carroll is that if you’ve got a good script and a good story, then as an actor, you really don’t have to do a lot,” Reiner said. “You don’t have to do any handsprings or pyrotechnics if you’re acting because you let the story and the words you’re saying support you.”

Reiner said he learned that that’s what audiences respond to in a show.

“We did almost 200 episodes,” he said. “It was like getting a Ph.D. from film school doing the show, and I learned a tremendous amount from Carroll.”

O’Connor’s portrayal of Archie was a fan favorite on “All in the Family” for his beliefs. He expressed conservative beliefs that went against Stivic’s liberal ones. The clashes between Archie and Michael are almost textbook dialogue pieces in TV history.

Carroll O’Connor Called Archie Role Best Part He Ever Played

Speaking of O’Connor, he held his role on “All in the Family” in high regard. There were times O’Connor walked off the set or would hold up production due to salary demands.

Yet he admitted in an interview a few years before his death that the role show creator Norman Lear gave him was the tops.

“I’ve always said that it’s the best part that I’ve ever played,” O’Connor said in an interview with the Academy of American Television. “I don’t think I’ll ever find as good a part as that.

“I enjoyed playing the chief down in Georgia (in O’Connor’s other series, a TV version of the Rod Steiger-Sidney Poitier film ‘In The Heat of the Night’) more,” O’Connor said. “But I know, from an actor’s standpoint, which was the better part.”

Indeed, O’Connor won four Emmy Awards for that character alone. Carroll O’Connor died on June 21, 2001, at 76 years old. His legacy, though, lives on through his TV work. The same is true for Rob Reiner, who is still alive, on both TV and the big screen as a director.