‘The Jeffersons’: Berlinda Tolbert Knew Her Husband 11 Days Before Marrying Him

Few TV shows hold the cultural importance of The Jeffersons. A spinoff of the wildly popular Norman Lear creation All in the Family, The Jefferson’s was one of the first highly successful Black sitcoms on network television. However, behind the iconic George and Weezy was another love story featuring their son, Lionel, and his lover-turned-wife, Jenny Willis. While that relationship played out over 11 years, the actor behind Jenny, Berlinda Tolbert, was not patient. 

The Jeffersons' cast smiling
(L-R) Berlinda Tolbert, Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford, Franklin Cover, Roxie Roker, and Marla Gibbs | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

What was The Jeffersons?

According to its IMDb page, The Jeffersons focused on the titular family as they moved away from Archie Bunker’s neighborhood and into their deluxe Manhattan apartment. While the series focused on Sherman Hemsley’s George and Isabel Sanford’s Weezy, their son, Lionel, served a similar function as Gloria in the source series that spawned it. 

Lionel grew from a promising young teenager with a life ahead of him to a married man. For the entirety of the series, Berlinda Tolbert flourished as Jenny, giving a little bit of humanity to the role as it blossomed from a childhood romance to the potent marriage that guided them to their own lives later years. It was a far cry from the real actor’s marriage, however.

Is Jenny still alive from ‘The Jeffersons’?

Quick-trigger marriages were not as uncommon to the 1970s audience as they are today. Now, in the age of love, cohabitation, and maybe marriage, audiences might be shocked to hear that a young actor like Tolbert waited just 11 days before marrying her husband, Bob Reid. However, even more, surprising is the fact that the marriage appears to remain strong to this day. The actor met her journalist husband around Valentine’s Day in 1979.

Despite the short acclimation period, the quick marriage did not impact the longevity of their marriage. Tolbert has been on a self-imposed acting hiatus for many years, but today her marriage to Reid is as strong as it ever was. Just don’t ask her about it. Tolbert leads a relatively quiet life for such a significant part of a show as The Jeffersons. However, despite an unwillingness to open up about her personal life, Tolbert still enjoys talking about her days at that deluxe apartment in the sky. 

Tolbert on The Jeffersons 

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Tolbert prefers to keep to herself when talking about her marriage and other parts of her personal life. However, it doesn’t mean she remains tight-lipped about her part in The Jefferson’s. She’s quick to recognize the importance of her most famous role. For that, she has nothing but positive things to say. 

“The entire experience is memorable. It changed my life. There is no one component that stands out for me. Every life experience is colored by the people you work with. Norman Lear had a wonderful knack of putting the right people together. There was great regard to individual contribution to the final product,” she told Jet Magazine in 2013. While Tolbert had roles in iconic films like Mean Streets, her work on The Jeffersons remains her magnum opus. She remains grateful for everything it brought her afterward. 

“For someone who was just beginning a career at that time, what a learning environment for me to be in. It was that experience that really taught me what I know about television. From the producers to the writers to the crew to the actors— I worked with exciting, creative people. It colored my impressions of the industry in an extremely positive way,” she told the magazine. 

While acting may have taken a backseat, it’s hard to ignore the importance that Tolbert had on television when it comes to future generations. However, even more impressive was her ability to keep such a strange marriage going for as long as it has without letting any aspects of it bleed into the tabloids.