Esther Rolle On How She Refused To Be A Sell-Out For A Paycheck
Esther Rolle is remembered most for her role as “Florida Evans,” the stern, but loving mother on Good Times, but behind the scenes she was a very straightforward, strong willed woman who did not compromise when it came to her beliefs and integrity as a human being and an actress.
As it is widely known now, Esther said “peace out” to Good Times in 1977, originally stating that her departure was over contractual disputes, but she soon admitted that it was because of the coonery direction she felt that the show was going in, which Rolle was embarrassed by and wanted no parts of what she felt was the degradation of Black people on mainstream TV.
Her outspokenness was a trait that she developed long before Hollywood came knocking at her door. When she lived in the south (Pampano Beach, FL) with her Bahamian immigrant parents and many sisters and brothers (her parents have 18 children total), she developed a high level of self-respect, personal responsibility, and a drive that led her to a career in performing arts. Going from performing in theatrical stage productions, to mainstream TV and remaining a firm supporter of Black artistic endeavors until she took her last breathe in 1998.
We wanted to share this interview Rolle did in 1990 with People Magazine because it gives a little more insight into the strong woman that she actually was. Rolle discussed why she refused to sell out to Hollywood for a paycheck, her refusal to walk behind a man, and a few other interesting things:
Best known as Florida Evans, hired by Maude (CBS, 1972-74), then spun off to her own Good Times (1974-79), Rolle has indeed been typecast as the maid, but it’s a part she has reinvented with pride. “I’m glad to take on the role of a domestic,”she explains, “because many of your Black leaders, your educators, your professionals came from domestic parents who made sacrifices to see that their children didn’t go through what they did.” But, she adds, “I don’t play Hollywood maids, the hee-hee kind of people who are so…
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