‘All in the Family’: Edith Bunker Was Portrayed by Blockbuster Hollywood Actress in 2019

by Suzanne Halliburton

All In the Family was so popular so many decades later that more than 10 million viewers watched a live reenactment of one of its fabulous episodes.

And an Academy-Award winning actress portrayed Edith Bunker, Archie’s wife, Gloria’s mother and Meathead’s mother-in-law.

So, did you see Marisa Tomei as Edith when ABC broadcast it in May, 2019? Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night TV host, came up with the idea of reimagining both All in the Family and its spinoff, The Jeffersons.

Obviously, the leads of both shows needed to be recast. Jean Stapleton, who brought Edith to life, died in 2013. Carroll O’Connor, who always will be Archie in the hearts of millions of TV fans, passed away in 2001. Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford, aka George and Louise Jefferson, also are no longer with us.

In the live revival, Woody Harrelson played Archie. Ellie Kemper was Gloria and Ian Barinholtz was her husband, Mike, who Archie always called Meathead. Tomei honed her acting skills in television. She appeared on the soap opera As the World Turns.

She then was Maggie in A Different World, which was a spinoff of The Cosby Show. Then she made the successful jump to movies, landing the role of Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinnie. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Tomei Said She First Identified as Gloria on ‘All in the Family’

In doing interviews to promote the show, Tomei said she watched the show as a kid, but identified the most with Gloria. Tomei grew up in Brooklyn, just a borough over from Queens.

“Well who doesn’t love Jean Stapleton,” Tomei said on the Little Gold Men podcast. “I mean she’s so deeply, deeply beloved. When I was little watching All in the Family, I didn’t really relate to Edith. I was looking at Gloria and I was looking at her hair and looking at her shoes and who was coming to the door.

“I wasn’t as aware of the fabric of the family dynamics as much as the events and, oh, they were going to do a flashback to when Mike and Gloria got married. So I was looking at different things. But yes, she’s someone who is an incredible performer, a theater actress as well, and in many mediums has done incredible work. Once I revisited this and we started talking about Edith, I was all over again blown away by all her choices and how she constructed this along with the writers.”

Tomei had to perfect Edith’s 1970s housewife chic. She put on a brunette wig, large glasses and a frumpy dress and disappeared into her character. Then she asked lots of questions of the show’s producers. Fortunately, Norman Lear, who created the show, was around for the revival.

“Well, first, ‘I asked what’s the mandate?'”Tomei said. “You know, what are we doing here? Is this an homage? Is it more of an SNL impersonation kind of situation? What’s the endgame too? I thought it was just a one-night-only thing then at one point it seemed like maybe there was going to be, are we angling to revive the whole show?”

The episode that was used — Henry’s Farewell — originally aired as part of All in the Family season four. Producers selected the episode because it was the first one featuring the character George Jefferson. The Jeffersons episode selected for a revival was the series debut.

Tomei and Harrelson even sang the show’s theme song Those Were the Days. Check it out.