‘All in the Family’: Rob Reiner on His Emotional Final Scene in the Series – ‘There Was No Acting’

Rob Reiner, also known as “Meathead” on the classic comedy, All in the Family, was part of one of the greatest ensemble shows in television history.

The seasoned actor and director decided, along with his costar, Sally Struthers, to bow out of the show at its 8th season and recalled the gutting emotion of his final scene with his father-in-law on the show, Carroll O’Connor.

Rob Reiner (left) and the cast of 'All in the Family', 1972
Rob Reiner (left) and the cast of ‘All in the Family’, 1972 | CBS, Getty

How Reiner feels audiences connected to Archie Bunker

Rob Reiner, left, and Carroll O'Connor of 'All in the Family,' 1972
Rob Reiner, left, and Carroll O’Connor of ‘All in the Family,’ 1972 | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

As much of a loudmouth and bigot as Archie Bunker was in All in the Family, viewers at the very least liked Carroll O’Connor’s depiction of the harried working man from Queens. Reiner, 73, explained to Television Academy Foundation in 2004 what it was about Archie that resonated with fans.

“I think [Archie] was acceptable because he was real,” the director of The Princess Bride said. “He loved his family, and even though he was bigoted and was ignorant, he was human. We saw a very vulnerable, loving person towards his family, and that made him acceptable in a certain way.”

“We didn’t accept his viewpoints, we didn’t accept his bigotry, but we certainly can accept his humanity as a loving father and husband,” he concluded.

The turbulent relationship between Archie and Mike, played by Rob Reiner

One of the often revisited storylines on the series was the relationship between the opinionated and bigoted Archie Bunker and his equally opinionated son-in-law, Mike Stivic, who Archie refers to as a “bleeding heart liberal.”

“I think that [Archie], at the same time that he was angry with Mike, he had a love for him,” Reiner recalled. “He might have resented the fact that he was living in the house and living off of him, certainly in the first few years, but he also, I think, was jealous of Mike in that Mike had the opportunity to go beyond where he had gone.”

The cast of 'All in the Family'
The cast of ‘All in the Family’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

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Reiner explained the dynamics of the relationship between the two men who could not be more different.

“He looked up to Mike in an odd way,” Reiner said. “He was angry at him, but part of him looked up to Mike because Mike could achieve things that he could not. And he definitely had a love for him. That’s why audiences accepted him. Because as angry as he was, and as rageful as he was, and as bigoted as he was, he still had a capacity to love.”

Rob Reiner describes his painfully emotional ‘goodbye’ scene on the show

The father of four admitted that when an actor is playing the same character for many seasons as the cast of All in the Family did, they end up spending more time together than they do with their actual family. And so, saying goodbye, even though it’s part of the script, still hurts because the feelings are painfully real.

The director of When Harry Met Sally opened up in his interview about his last show of the situation comedy. The final episode of the eighth season, “The Stivics Go West” saw Reiner and his small-screen wife, Sally Struthers, say goodbye to Archie and his wife Edith, played unforgettably by Jean Stapleton.

On the set of 'All in the Family'
On the set of ‘All in the Family’ | CBS via Getty Images

“That [episode] was a very emotional time for all of us,” he said. “We’d been together for eight years…and you spend more time with your TV family than with your real family. And so you get very, very close to them and it’s very emotional.”

“The scene [starting at 21:00 here] where we say goodbye to each other, there was no acting. There was just no acting. You didn’t have to act. I mean, I looked at Carroll…I’ll never forget it because it was one of those times when you don’t act because all of your emotions just come out.”