‘All in the Family’: Marisa Tomei Explained the Key Part of Understanding Edith Bunker’s ‘Heart’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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All in the Family was ground-breaking back in the day. But did you ever stop and think how dialogue was written almost a half-century ago would translate into today’s world?

Marisa Tomei pondered that when she took on the part of Edith Bunker for the live revival of the show in May, 2019. She and her castmates reenacted an episode of All in the Family that first was broadcast in 1976. The series took on all the political and social issues of the day.

They explored them from the point of view of each family member and always did so using comedy as a way to work through them.

Tomei said she couldn’t remember the impact All in the Family had when it first premiered in 1972. She was in the second grade. It’s difficult to recall specifics from that age, but you can remember the emotions you felt as a kid.

“When I was watching it, I didn’t understand any of the political undertones,” Tomei said. “I didn’t understand any of those references. My life was so simple and didn’t realize that the world outside our house was so fraught. “

Tomei said she most remembered Gloria, Archie and Edith Bunker’s only child, and her “sexy relationship” with Mike, her husband. And she recalled all the times someone knocked on the Bunker’s front door of the house where they lived in Queens.

“Who is coming to the door,” Tomei asked. “What’s the outside world going to bring into their little world? So, that’s how I always related more to Gloria, although I apparently wasn’t thinking about feminist issues or anything like that.”

And then, she started thinking about Edith.

“Thinking and understanding how her heart was with every other member of her family,” she said. “And every member of her neighborhood, how much she was the glue in that neighborhood, and from her perspective, how she grew up. She grew up in so much of a different time. She was like in my grandmother’s time. And what role women had.

“It was like ‘wow,’ Archie. He’s speaking to her like this. I didn’t know how that was going to affect me and how the audience was going to hear it now, too. Are they going to be with her or is there going to be like a weird feeling about Edith? There wasn’t because she had such a giant heart, which everyone can feel and know because it’s written into the fabric of the show. She doesn’t lie, she’s non-judgmental. They put her on a jury because she would never lie. … That strength is underrated, but it comes across when the players start playing.”

More than 10.4 million viewers watched the live revival of All in the Family when it aired on ABC. An episode of The Jeffersons then followed. Woody Harrelson played Archie. Ellie Kemper was Gloria and Ian Barinholtz was her husband, Mike, who Archie always called Meathead. 

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 also sang the theme song to the show. Check out Tomei’s entire interview.

Outsider.com