‘All in the Family’: Archie Bunker Actor Carroll O’Connor Explained Why Show Never Improvised on Camera

by Joe Rutland
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Improvisation is a technique actors are known to do at times on television shows. Carroll O’Connor said “All in the Family” didn’t do it.

O’Connor talked about whether or not the popular CBS sitcom did this during a 1976 interview on “American Bandstand.” Now you might wonder why O’Connor was on the famed ABC music show? He was promoting his album, “Carroll O’Connor Sings For Old PFARTS (People Favoring a Return to Sentiment).”

Show host Dick Clark introduced the “All in the Family” star to the studio audience, chats with the star a bit, then turns to the crowd for questions.

It was one audience member’s question about improvising that led to O’Connor’s answer.

‘All in the Family’ Star Explained Process of Coming Up With Script

“We improvise while we’re rehearsing,” O’Connor said. “We improvise a lot. We follow the script but we deviate from it, we improvise, and we have people taking down what we say and then we sort it all out and use the best of it.”

O’Connor went on to explain that once the camera is turned on, the “All in the Family” cast doesn’t improvise and sticks with what is agreed upon by everyone for the script.

For nine seasons, he played Archie Bunker on “All in the Family.” His work on that show earned O’Connor four Emmy Awards. He continued to play Bunker, albeit in a different setting, for the spinoff “Archie Bunker’s Place” that ran for four seasons.

TV Character Didn’t Represent Same Beliefs Of O’Connor

The Bunker character was totally the opposite of who O’Connor the man was away from the show. While Archie was a conservative-minded character, O’Connor himself had liberal beliefs. Later, O’Connor played Sheriff Bill Gillespie in the TV version of the movie “In the Heat of the Night.”

In his later years, O’Connor became a vocal activist against drug addiction. His adopted son Hugh O’Connor, who also had a role in “In the Heat of the Night,” died from a self-inflicted gunshot on March 28, 1995, at 32 years old. Hugh O’Connor battled drug addiction throughout his life.

Losing his son deeply affected O’Connor as he frequently mentioned him in interviews. He became an advocate for drug awareness and spoke out against drug dealers. O’Connor publicly named the man who provided drugs to his son. He found this out from Angela O’Connor, Hugh’s wife.

Carroll O’Connor died on June 21, 2001, at 76 years old.

Outsider.com