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227 aired from September 1985 until July 1990 on NBC.

Marla Gibbs, who played the insolent, wisecracking housekeeper on The Jeffersons for 10 years, brought a somewhat toned-town variation of the character to this popular comedy about family life in a black neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Mary and her best friend, Rose, the landlady ( Marla Gibbs, Alaina Reed-Hall), liked to sit on the stoop of their apartment building (No. 227) and gossip abouty many things-especially the building's resident vamp, Sandra ( Jackee Harry), who had the figure and mannerisms of a modern Mae West. While Sandra wiggled around in her tight dresses, Mary's daughter, Brenda ( Regina King), was just beginning to struggle with the pains of adolescence, her number-one pain being gangly boyfriend Calvin ( Curtis Baldwin). Lester ( Hal Williams) was Mary's level-headed husband, a small-time contractor, and Pearl ( Helen Martin) a crochety old busybody ( and Calvin's grandmother) who often leaned out her window to join in the front-stoop conversations. Tiffany ( Kia Goodwin), Rose's daughter and Brenda's friend, was rarely seen after the first season.

In the final two seasons, several new characters appeared. Alexandria ( Countess Vaughn) was an exceptionally bright 11-year-old, a college freshman who stayed with the Jenkins' for a time, Dylan ( Barry Sobel), an eccentric white teacher who moved into the building; Travis ( Stoney Jackson), was Dylan's roommate , a limo-driver; and Barlow ( Paul Winfield), a cranky gentleman who bought the building from Rose and moved into the top floor penthouse. Rose found romance in the final season in the person of Warren ( played by Alaina Reed-Hall's real-life husband, actor Kevin Peter Hall), a very tall young man whom she married in early 1990.

The series was based on a play, 227, in which several of the principals ( including Gibbs) had appeared.

A Review from USA TODAY


'227' Gibbs gives everyone lip, but no laughs

Who wants to see Florence again? Marla Gibbs obviously thinks everyone was wild about that wisecracking maid on The Jeffersons. She seems to be playing Florence again-or a least a Florence-esque character-in this new NBC sitcom.

Here, Gibbs plays someone named Mary Jenkins, a wisecracker and wiseacre, whose official preoccupation is gossiping. Mary has a husband ( Hal Williams) who dotes on her and a darling daughter ( Regina King) going through the pangs of adolescence.

Does Mary concern herself with her family? She's too busy sitting on the stoop with her best friend Rose yacking and hacking up all her neighbors.

The flimsy premise is this: Every week, we'll see Mary's meddling get her into various jams. She'll always get out of them, while husband looks on bemusedly and daughter wonders why she's got a mom with an attitude.

The attitude is really the problem here. Gibbs is a master at curling her lip and giving people lip. She doesn't let anyone else get in the funny punchline. Nor does she show a glimmer of vulnerability. She, my dear, must always have the final word.

Situation-comedy heroines must surrender their hard shells before they can capture our hearts. This Mary Jenkins seems like she's encased in concrete. What's there to root for? A silly woman who make's fun of everybody? Hardly.

Supposedly a sitcom about neighborliness, 227 has the warmth of an ice pick. The message seems to be: Keep looking over your shoulder, or Florence/Mary will stab you in the back.

An Article from People Magazine

After Mopping Up as the Maid on the Jeffersons, Marla Gibbs Polishes Her Image as the Star of 227

Richard Sanders
November 25, 1985 12:00 PM

There’s a problem on the set of NBC’s 227: The sitcom’s star is blue. No, Marla Gibbs isn’t melancholic; she’s tinted blue. The monitor shows that the color balance is way off, giving Gibbs’ flesh tones a shimmering hue. Hands on hips, Gibbs marches over to the monitor and, as she puts it, “drives the crew craaaaaazy” until the color is adjusted. “I’m the mother hen here,” she cackles. “The cast, the crew, the network might not prefer it, but I stick my nose into everything, honey. I’ve got to see for myself.”

The sassy tone of voice is familiar. It’s the same one Gibbs used for 11 seasons as Florence, The Jeffersons’ back-talking maid. Now with a similar tart tongue, Gibbs plays the role of Mary Jenkins—a housewife who rules the roost in her inner-city brown-stone—and the role of the show’s co-producer. When Regina King, the 14 year old cast as her daughter, ad-libs a line about hitting her, Gibbs threatens to return the favor. “Regina knows when we’re on the set that I’m her mama,” says a laughing Gibbs. “If she does something wrong, I’m going to slap her one.” Regina disagrees. “She just talks a good game,” says the teenager.

As a downscale cousin to The Cosby Show, 227 has won decent reviews and ratings in its slot following Golden Girls. For the 50ish Gibbs, who guards her age, being the star of her own show represents a long-sought leap from sitcom ensemble player to power broker. “Marla really is involved in the show,” says executive producer Jack Elinson. “She’s no figurehead.” She maintains casting approval and supervises scripts. As Gibbs observes, “When I produce the show, I don’t have time to deal with affected people who live in contrived situations. That’s just one big bore, honey.”

The hard-nosed approach is more than just talk, as Gibbs’ own offspring are aware. The actress raised three children with a loving but sometimes heavy hand. “The whoppings weren’t that bad,” says Dorian, 22, a graduate of USC’s drama department. “Mom’s arm would get tired before any real damage could happen.” The same treatment was accorded Angela, 31, an actress, and Jordan Jr., 28, a cameraman at Universal Studios. “I whip their butts,” jokes Gibbs. “I offer them a choice of the whip or a punch—and it’s no plaything. Oh, mighty!”

The problems of Gibbs’ own childhood were more psychological than corporal. In part, the key to Gibbs is her mother—or rather the absence of her mother. Gibbs grew up as Margaret Bradley, a shy, introverted girl on Chicago’s South Side. Her parents divorced when she was 4, and her mother, using her stage name, Ophelia Kemp, left home to pursue a career as a popular radio evangelist in the Midwest. “It was very painful,” Marla remembers. “I didn’t feel she needed me when I was young. I needed answers that only she could give me, and she wasn’t there.” Mother and daughter reconciled later in life, and although Ophelia died in 1967, their relationship goes on. “She lives through me,” Gibbs insists. “I mean, if cans can be recycled, why not spirits? She’s much more available now than when she was on earth and I couldn’t get her on the damn phone. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see her and start talking to her.”

Marla was raised by her father, Douglas Bradley, an auto mechanic. “He was just wonderful, but it wasn’t the same without a mother. I grew up weird—very sensitive and highly inhibited. I felt like I was born in the wrong time zone to the wrong people at the wrong place.”

The same sense of displacement marked her early adult years. When she married Jordan Gibbs, a Chicago postal employee, “he was an escape hatch,” admits Marla. “I really didn’t know him.” The marriage, which lasted 17 years, was often turbulent. “I would wonder what was wrong with me,” she says. “I would go to the front door and go screaming down the street because I felt so restricted and enclosed.”

In 1963 Marla went to work as a reservations clerk for United Airlines, and six years later a transfer took Gibbs, her husband and kids to Los Angeles. As a hobby, she began studying acting. “It was just to take my mind off my troubles. If I’d never earned a living at it, I wouldn’t have cared.” Acting accelerated her discontent. “I needed my freedom. The point is you move on when you want to move on,” she says. She shortened her name to Marla and in 1973 filed for divorce.

Brash and upfront, Gibbs found her emerging personality custom-made for The Jeffersons’ Florence, her first major role. An incorrigible scene-stealer, she considered the cast one big family. Says former co-star Sherman Hemsley: “Marla’s like a favorite sister you can’t want to kick out of the house.” She fostered a similar family atmosphere in 1983, when she starred in a comedy at L.A.’s Crossroads Arts Academy, which Gibbs owns. Titled 227, the play featured a black Love Lucy-type mother trying to shield her loved ones from inner-city evils. When The Jeffersons went off the air last spring, Gibbs persuaded NBC to translate the play into a series.

If 227 doesn’t survive the season, Gibbs won’t have to worry about eviction from her 17-room house in the Los Feliz Hills of California. She also owns Marla’s Memory Lane supper club, a jazz joint in downtown L.A., and You!, a high-priced clothing boutique in Beverly Hills. Romance has been a casualty of her numerous activities. “I’m not launching a major campaign for a man. Why’re you asking? You know someone for me?”

In a sense, Gibbs accepted her blossoming confidence more easily than her financial success. Even during her first two years on The Jeffersons, she still kept her airlines job. But she isn’t sorry she finally gave it up. “They stopped issuing unlimited passes to the employees. Now you have to go space available and you get bumped, honey,” she says. “When I get on a plane these days, I go first class.”

An Article from the Chicago Tribune

Jackee Harry`s Wild About Her Success In `227`
January 11, 1987|By Monika Guttman.

HOLLYWOOD — She sweeps grandly into the hotel lobby, her short hair cascading in curls down her forehead, her full gray skirt billowing behind her. Heads turn when she enters the restaurant, waves and cries out in greeting, ``I`m starved!`` Jackee Harry is impossible to miss--in the dining room of the Hollywood Hotel, or as Sandra, the man-crazy vamp on Marla Gibbs` NBC series, ``227.``

Jackee (pronounced Jac-KAY) drapes her sweater over the back of her chair, revealing a leopard-print shirt. ``I would have worn the full leopard- print pantsuit, but I didn`t think people in L.A. could handle it,`` says the New York actress, laughing. She points out, with obvious prejudice, numerous other distinctions between Manhattan, which she calls home, and Los Angeles, where she shoots the series. ``I miss being able to hang out on the corner, meet someone, go have a little coffee and talk,`` she says with a sigh. ``I miss the energy. I miss Broadway, what little there is on Broadway now.``

``But I have to get used to it out here,`` she adds quickly, ``because it seems obvious that I`m not going back right away.``

It has taken her a long time to come to that realization.

The North Carolina native, who moved to New York with her widowed mother at age 9, was working last year as a regular on the New York-based daytime soap ``Another World`` when she was told to fly to Los Angeles ``to audition for a part.`` Nonchalantly, she got on the plane--coach--the only young black woman among the passengers.

``I thought, `Hey, they aren`t flying many people out for this,``` she says, laughing, ``and I sat back, relaxed, . . . and then suddenly a number of actresses I knew got on. I thought, `Oh, shoot.```

She returned to New York from the audition and found a message from her agent--she had the part. ``I found out at 7 p.m., and by 10 p.m. I was on a flight back to L.A.

``We filmed the pilot and I thought, `Yeah, this is funny, but we`ll never get picked up.` I went back to New York, and I really didn`t care if the series sold--I was rehearsing a Billie Holiday show, I had my boyfriend there, I had just bought my apartment.``

A month later she found out the show was picked up. ``I was morbid. Morbid. I felt my life was over.`` She giggles. ``Can you believe it? I even told my boyfriend I`d be back soon, that it wouldn`t last long. . . .``

That was last May. ``227`` has lasted, but Harry`s relationship didn`t. However, she has since found a new love: New York investment analyst Ed Hartley. ``When I met him last summer, I thought, `He`s okay,` but he bored me to death. So I didn`t call him. He sent me roses, candy, champagne . . . . Finally I said, `Okay, okay, I`ll see you.``` She pauses. ``He`s really sweet. I see him at least once a month.`` Harry has been married once

--that relationship ended in 1984.

A devout Baptist, Harry says she has strong religious values--and, unlike Sandra, ``I don`t date other women`s men, and I`m not promiscuous. Otherwise, I believe something bad will happen to you.`` Like the time she was dating two men at once and got their names mixed up, which ended the relationships.

``I try not to do bad,`` and again she smiles wickedly, ``but sometimes it`s irresistible.``

Although she claims there are many differences between herself and Sandra (``I`m not as glossy, and I`m smarter``), Harry will defend her character`s integrity against any challenge.

``I love her, I really do,`` she says fiercely. ``I protect her. If they put something in the script that`s not her, I fight it. I`d go to the Supreme Court if necessary.``

Harry is eager to make the most of her West Coast success.

She`s looking for a movie project during her ``227`` hiatus--unlike last year, when she returned to New York and created a one-woman nightclub act. She`s also ``perfecting`` her nightclub act for a Los Angeles debut, ``because here, expectations are really high and you`ve got to have an A-1 show.`` She`s working on demos for her own album, arranging songs and choosing material. And she says she wouldn`t mind if, through ``227,`` she launched her own TV series.

``I want to do really outlandish, crazy stuff. I like writing my own material--I`m pretty good at it. If Sandra`s still popular at the time we do another show, I could just do her. But I could also just be me--more of a character than a caricature.``

Harry is convinced that all these goals are possible. ``I was always telling my family I wanted to become an actress, and I did. Then I`d tell my peers I wanted a TV show, and I got the soap. Then I said I want night-time TV, and I got `227.```

Now, she`d like to do it all--plus be able to live in New York.

``Hey,`` she says with a laugh, ``Bill Cosby does it.``

Here is Helen Martin's Obituary

Helen Martin, of Bway's Native Son and Purlie Victorious, Dead At 90
Apr 04, 2000

Helen Martin, an African-American actress who appeared on Broadway long before people of color were a regular part of the landscape there, died March 25 in Monterey, CA, The New York Times reported. Ms. Martin was 90.

Helen Martin, an African-American actress who appeared on Broadway long before people of color were a regular part of the landscape there, died March 25 in Monterey, CA, The New York Times reported. Ms. Martin was 90.

For her Broadway debut, she played Vera Thomas alongside Canada Lee (he portrayed her brother, Bigger) in Orson Welles' 1941 staging of Native Son. She later toured with the show on the so-called subway circuit and into the provinces.

She acted in 1939 with the Rose McClendon Players in New York City and was a founding member of the American Negro Theatre in 1940, appearing in Striver's Row, Three's a Family and Hits, Bits and Skits.

Ms. Martin's career also included work in radio, film and television, most recently appearing as a neighbor in the TV sitcom, "227."

The St. Louis native attended Fisk University and would eventually perform around the country in stock, and across the Atlantic Ocean, appearing in London in Deep Are the Roots, which she had played in New York. Other Broadway appearances include Take a Giant Step, The Long Dream, Period of Adjustment, Purlie Victorious, My Mother, My Father and Me. She was a replacement in Jean Genet's The Blacks Off Broadway. Ms. Martin, who rose during a time when black actresses were offered maid or servant roles, would find richer possibilities as her career continued and the world changed. In the landmark TV miniseries "Roots," she played an elder in an African village, and played a variety of guest roles on "Benson," "Full House," "Good Times" and "That's My Mama." She appeared in the films "Hollywood Shuffle" (winning an NAACP Image Award), "Cotton Comes to Harlem," "Repo Man," and was Mama Doll in the Warren Beatty film, "Bulworth."

Her final film, "Something to Sing About," is expected to be released this year, according to The Times.

Here is Alaina Reed-Hall's Obituary from CNN

'Sesame Street,' '227' star Alaina Reed-Amini dies
By Jo Piazza, Special to CNN
December 22, 2009 1:21 p.m. EST

(CNN) -- Actress Alaina Reed-Amini, best known for her long-running roles as Olivia Robinson on the children's program "Sesame Street" and Rose Lee Holloway on the comedy "227," has died.

Reed-Amini lost a two-year battle with breast cancer at St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, on Thursday, according to reports.

Reed-Amini, who changed her named from Alaina Reed Hall after she married Tamim Amini in 2008, turned 63 last month. In 1976 she joined the cast of "Sesame Street" as Olivia, a professional photographer and the kid sister of Gordon the teacher. She left the program in 1988 for a role on the NBC sitcom "227."

The actress married her "227" co-star Kevin Peter Hall in 1988. With art imitating life, their characters were married in the final season of the show in 1990. Hall died in 1991 from complications from the AIDS virus that he acquired through a blood transfusion.

Her stage credits include productions of "Chicago" and "Hair." She also appeared in the inspirational one-woman show "Alaina at the Bijou."

Her movie credits include "Cruel Intentions" and "Death Becomes Her." She guest-starred on television shows such as "ER," "NYPD Blue," "The Drew Carey Show" and "Ally McBeal."

Reed-Amini is survived by her husband and two children from her marriage to Hall.

For more on 227 go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

To go behind the scenes of 227 go to

For an interview with Marla Gibbs go to

For an interview with Jackee Harry go to

For some 227-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For 2 Reviews of 227 go to and
Date: Thu January 19, 2006 � Filesize: 17.6kb � Dimensions: 250 x 188 �
Keywords: 227: Cast Photo (Links Updated 7/22/18)


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