‘The Jeffersons’ Isabel Sanford Firmly Refused to Do a Show Reunion

After The Jeffersons went off the air in 1985, the cast came together in events such as a live, on-stage recreation of popular episodes, and the cast’s get-together on 1990s talk show Rolonda.

As for a televised, advertised CBS reunion bringing back the cast for one more go-round? Isabel Sanford, who played the down-to-earth Louise Jefferson, adamantly declined any offers to air a reunited Jeffersons cast.

Here’s why she refused.

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

‘The Jeffersons’ aired on CBS for 11 seasons

The series, about a Black couple who move from Queens, NYC to Manhattan was an immediate hit. It starred Sherman Hemsley as the overly confident, hothead owner of a chain of dry cleaners and his compassionate yet straightforward wife Louise played by Sanford.

Marla Gibbs who portrayed the Jeffersons’ house maid Florence Johnston on the program shared with The Washington Post in 2015 what she felt made the Norman Lear comedy so relatable to so many viewers.

'The Jeffersons' star Marla Gibbs with show creator Norman Lear in 2015
‘The Jeffersons’ star Marla Gibbs with show creator Norman Lear in 2015 | Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

The Jeffersons, we never considered ourselves a Black show,” she said. “We were mixed in the cast and all of our guest stars, mostly, were other races. We were reflecting people and we really reflected all of society. We had a lot of good episodes. We touched almost everything on that show.”

It upset Sanford that the show was not given a finale

After an incredible 11 years, The Jeffersons was canceled; the final episode was simply another episode with no plot lines that served to wrap the show up. Quietly, the series ended and for Sanford, it was a slight.

“I thought we could have at least had like an hour closing show,” she told the Television Academy Foundation in 2002. “You see, the other sitcoms, they had a closing show. Mary Tyler Moore, M*A*S*H, and the others that were playing along with us at the same time.

(L to R) Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson and Isabel Sanford as his wife Louise Jefferson on 'The Jeffersons'
(L to R) Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson and Isabel Sanford as his wife Louise Jefferson on ‘The Jeffersons’ | CBS via Getty Images

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“They all had a closure,” she said. “I thought we should at least have that respect. We had been running as long as they had.”

She refused to participate in a ‘Jeffersons’ reunion

Sanford ultimately was simply unwilling to perform in a reunion episode for airing on CBS or any other network. Having been overlooked for a finale, or a closing episode, was the final straw for her. Seeing other CBS shows receive a proper goodbye just made it worse.

“I thought we were going to come back for about an hour,” Sanford said of her hopes of having a closing episode that would tie up loose ends on the show.

The cast of the TV sitcom 'The Jeffersons' (L-R Back Row: Franklin Cover, Paul Benedict, Sherman Hemsley, Marla Gibbs, Ned Wertimer and Berlinda Tolbert, Front Row, seated: Roxie Roker, Isabel Sanford, and Mike Evans circa 1975
‘The Jeffersons’ cast, 1975 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While she agreed that she would have done a reunion episode if the script was good, the actor who died in 2004 said, “If we come back to do anything at all, it has to be just as good or even better [than the show scripts]. [The fans] would expect good things from it.”

Unfortunately, a reunion episode never happened but we still have 11 seasons of Jeffersons magic to enjoy.