Esther Rolle

Actor, Dancer
Famous for her gruff voice and gap-toothed smile, talented and outspoken African-American actress Esther Rolle made her mark on television as Florida Evans on "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78) and then her own series, "Good Times" ... Read more »
Born: 11/08/1920 in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA

Filmography

Actor (29)

Down in the Delta 1998 (Movie)

Annie (Actor)

Rosewood 1997 (Movie)

Aunt Sarah (Actor)

My Fellow Americans 1996 (Movie)

Rita (Actor)

How to Make An American Quilt 1995 (Movie)

Aunt Pauline (Actor)

Nobody's Girls: Five Women of the West 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

House of Cards 1993 (Movie)

Adelle (Actor)

Color Adjustment 1992 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Singer & Sons 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Performer

A Raisin in the Sun 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Driving Miss Daisy 1989 (Movie)

Idella (Actor)

The Mighty Quinn 1989 (Movie)

Ubu Pearl (Actor)

Ethnic Notions: Portraits of Prejudice 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Narrator

Murder, She Wrote 1985 - 1986 (Tv Show)

Actor

The 37th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Performer

Momma the Detective 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

P.K. and the Kid 1981 (Movie)

Mim (Actor)

Cleopatra Jones 1973 (Movie)

Mrs Johnson (Actor)

Don't Play Us Cheap 1971 (Movie)

Miss Maybell (Actor)

Nothing But a Man 1964 (Movie)

(Actor)

Age-Old Friends (TV Show)

Actor

Good Times (TV Show)

Actor

Maude (TV Show)

Actor

Scarlett (TV Show)

Actor

Summer of My German Soldier (TV Show)

Actor

The Kid Who Loved Christmas (TV Show)

Actor

To Dance With the White Dog (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

Famous for her gruff voice and gap-toothed smile, talented and outspoken African-American actress Esther Rolle made her mark on television as Florida Evans on "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78) and then her own series, "Good Times" (CBS, 1974-79). Like many black actors and actresses of her generation, Rolle often played domestics, but she made the characters more interesting and dignified than was the norm. A staunch advocate for improving the depiction of African-American characters, Rolle demonstrated her convictions by walking off "Good Times" at the height of its popularity when she felt that the series had failed in those regards. She was also a founding member of the Negro Ensemble Company and ranked among its most distinguished alumni. Rolle initially attracted the attention of "Maude" producer Norman Lear via her laudable performances in Broadway productions like "An Evening of One Acts" (1969), "Rosalee Pritchett" (1971) and "Don't Play Us Cheap" (1972). She also went on to do fine work in movies, though rarely in the sort of intriguing lead roles offered to her on stage and television. Both "Maude" and "Good Times" confirmed that Rolle was a wonderful comedic talent even when working with variable material, but she was also an excellent dramatic actress, as evidenced by her impressive résumé of stage credits and Emmy Award-winning turn in the TV movie "Summer of My German Soldier" (NBC, 1978). An actress of great power and range who did not suffer fools gladly, Rolle was an inspiration to actors of any color or creed.

Relationships

Rosanna Carter Actor

Sister
Acted with sister on "Good Times" and TV movie "See China and Die"

Estelle Evans Actor

Sister
Born Oct. 1, 1906; acted with sister in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and on "Good Times" Died July 20, 1985

Oscar Robinson

Husband
Married 1955 Divorced 1975

Jonathan Rolle

Father
Bahamian

Elizabeth Rolle

Mother
Bahamian

EDUCATION

Spellman College

Hunter College

New York , New York

New School for Social Research

New York , New York

Milestones

1998

Final mainstream feature appearance, "Down in the Delta"

1995

Played minor role in "How to Make an American Quilt"

1990

Returned to series TV on NBC sitcom "Singer and Sons"

1989

Played loyal housekeeper Idella in award-winning feature "Driving Miss Daisy"

1982

Played the Nurse in "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet"

1979

Played Maya Angelou's grandmother in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

1978

Won Emmy for work in TV movie debut "Summer of My German Soldier" (NBC)

1974

Reprised Florida Evans with starring role on "Good Times" (CBS)

1972

Created role of Florida Evans on "Maude" (ABC)

1970

Cast as regular on "One Life to Live" (ABC)

1968

Made London stage debut in "God Is a (Guess What?)"

1967

Was founding member of Negro Ensemble Company

1963

Landed early film role in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

1962

Made off-Broadway debut in "The Blacks"

Danced with Shogola Obola Dance Co.

Bonus Trivia

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Rolle was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1991.

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She was the first woman to receive the NAACP Chairman’s Civil Rights Leadership Award.

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