Marla Gibbs (born Margaret Theresa Bradley; June 14, 1931) is an American actress, comedian, singer, writer and producer, whose career spans five decades. Gibbs is known for her role as Louise and George Jefferson's maid, Florence Johnston, in the long-running CBS sitcom, The Jeffersons (1975–85), for which she received five nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She also starred in the show's spin-off Checking In (1981), and for her leading role as Mary Jenkins in the NBC sitcom, 227 (1985–90), which she also co-produced and sang on the theme song. Gibbs has won a total of seven NAACP Image Awards. In later years, Gibbs played supporting roles in films The Meteor Man (1993), Lost & Found (1999), The Visit (2000), The Brothers (2001), and Madea's Witness Protection (2012).

Early life

The younger of a sister, Gibbs was born Margaret Theresa Bradley on June 14, 1931, at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois to Ophelia Birdie (née Kemp) and Douglas Bradley. She attended Wendell Phillips Academy High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's south side graduating in 1949. Shortly after high school, Gibbs moved to Detroit, Michigan where she attended Peters Business School. She worked as a reservations agent for United Airlines before relocating with her children from Detroit to Los Angeles.


Gibbs got her first acting job in the early 1970s, in the blaxploitation films Sweet Jesus, Preacher Man and Black Belt Jones. In 1975 she was cast as Florence Johnston, the family's maid, in the CBS comedy series The Jeffersons. For her performance on the series, Gibbs was nominated for an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series five times, and once for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film. In 1981 she starred in the short-lived spin-off of The Jeffersons, titled Checking In. Gibbs responded in a 2015 interview on Broadway Showbiz, when asked if she'd based any of her characters on real-life people: "Yes, Florence was like my aunt and grandmother so I lived it. She came easy to me so I'm like Florence in giving smart answers, but I was also shy so I wouldn't have dared to say some of the things Florence said. I prefer to do whatever I can do at the moment. Whoever's hiring me at the moment...that's what I'm supposed to do. My favorite is drama. I'm doing that now (on Scandal), but also still doing comedy on Hot in Cleveland."

In 1985, when The Jeffersons was cancelled after 11 seasons, Gibbs was the lead actress in the NBC sitcom, 227. The series aired until 1990, producing 116 episodes. Two decades later, Gibbs teamed again with former 227 co-star and long-time friend Jackée Harry in The First Family, where Gibbs had a recurring role as Harry's on-screen mother Grandma Eddy. Then, she again worked with Harry in the independent film Forbidden Woman.

Gibbs had a number of supporting film roles, and guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Touched by an Angel (with longtime friend Della Reese), Judging Amy, ER, and Southland. From 1998 to 2002 she had a recurring role on The Hughleys. In 2012, Gibbs appeared in the Tyler Perry film Madea's Witness Protection, and in 2014 she starred in the independent film, Grantham & Rose. In 2015, she made a cameo appearance in the episode of Shonda Rhimes' drama series, Scandal. Gibbs owned a jazz club in South Central L.A. called Marla's Memory Lane Jazz and Supper Club from 1981 to 1999. As a singer, she released a number of albums.

Personal life

Gibbs was married to her high school sweetheart Jordan Gibbs from 1955 to 1973; the couple had three children: Angela Gibbs, Dorian Gibbs and Joseph Gibbs. Her older sister is the late actress Susie Garrett. Her daughter Angela Gibbs is also an actress who appeared in movies such as Together Brothers, Drumline and Think Like A Man Too. On July 31, 2014, Gibbs attended the Leimert Park Village Book Fair in Los Angeles, California to pay tribute to longtime friends Maya Angelou, who died on May 28, and Ruby Dee, who died on June 11. On January 11, 2016, Gibbs and former 227 co-star and long-time friend, Jackée Harry, attended the funeral of Grammy Award-winning singer Natalie Cole at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, California. Gibbs co-starred opposite Cole in the TV movie Lily in Winter.



1973Sweet Jesus, PreachermanBeverly Solomon
1974Black Belt JonesBartenderUncredited
1975The Missing Are DeadlyNurseTelevision film
1977Passing ThroughSecretary
1979You Can't Take It with YouRhebaTelevision film
1990Menu for MurderMarty HallardTelevision film
1991Up Against the WallLouise Bradley
1991Last Breeze of SummerShort film
1993The Meteor ManMaxine Reed
1994Lily in WinterMaize Covington
1998Border to BorderDela
1999Lost & FoundEnid
2000The VisitLois WatersMethod Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
2000Stanley's GigEleanor Whitney
2001The BrothersMary West
2005Love on LayawayNarrator
2006The Ties That BindDeloresShort film
2006The Heart SpecialistMs. Overwood
2009The What Goes AroundMs. LaceyShort film
2009Afro NinjaAunt Mary
2009Just Like FamilyMabel Jenkins
2009Devil's LandJudge Martha M. Levine
2010SunnyviewMrs. HarrisShort film
2012Who Killed Soul Glow?
2012C'mon ManMrs. Crabtree
2012Madea's Witness ProtectionHattie
2013Forbidden WomanMrs. Simmons
2014Grantham & RoseRose Price
2015The Man in 3BMs. Mamie


1975Barney MillerMrs. McBeeEpisode: "Vigilante"
1976Arthur Hailey's The MoneychangersBeth EuphratesMiniseries
1981Checking InFlorence JohnstonSeries regular, 4 episodes
1981The Love BoatJanet DaltonEpisode: "The Incredible Hunk/Isaac, the Marriage Counselor/Jewels & Jim"
1984Pryor's PlaceMiss Stern3 episodes
1975-1985The JeffersonsFlorence JohnstonSeries regular, 207 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1981-1985)
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1985)
Nominated — TV Land Award for Favorite Made-for-TV Maid
1985-1990227Mary JenkinsSeries regular, 115 episodes
1993A Different WorldPrincipal ShawEpisode: "To Whit, with Love"
1993In the Heat of the NightLilly BakerEpisode: "A Baby Called Rocket"
1993Empty NestJosephine DouglasEpisode: "Mother Dearest"
1995Dream OnMrs. PerryEpisode: "Little Orphan Eddie"
1995MartinMiss MinnieEpisode: "Housekeeper from Hell"
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
1996The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirFlorence JohnstonEpisode: "I, Done: Part 2"
1997-1998101 Dalmatians: The SeriesDuchess (voice)8 episodes
1999Martial LawDolores Parker2 episodes
1999Dawson's CreekMrs. Fran BoydEpisode: "First Encounters of the Close Kind"
2000Touched by an AngelMillieEpisode: "The Invitation"
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
2001Judging AmyZella Van ExelEpisode: "Between the Wanting and the Getting"
2002The King of QueensNana LouiseEpisode: "Patrons Ain't"
1998-2002The HughleysHattie Mae Hughley16 episodes
2002The Rerun ShowDr. BeamishEpisode: "The Facts of Life: Shoplifting/The Jeffersons: A Bedtime Story"
2004PassionsAunt IrmaRecurring role
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
2004Listen UpJackie WidmerEpisode: "Thanksgiving"
2005ERCherise BarnesEpisode: "Only Connect"
2005Cold CaseGeorgieEpisode: "Best Friends"
2008Lincoln HeightsHazel RobersonEpisode: "The Day Before Tomorrow"
2011House of PayneFlorence JohnstonEpisode: "Curtis Jefferson"
2012SouthlandMs. MillerEpisode: "Underwater"
2013Mr. Box OfficeFlorence JohnstonEpisode: "The Golden Apple"
2012-2013The First FamilyGrandma Eddy11 episodes
2014Old SoulAgnesPilot
2015ScandalRose2 episodes
2015Hot in ClevelandMarciaEpisode: "Cleveland Calendar Girls"
2015American Horror Story: HotelCassie RoyaleEpisode: "She Wants Revenge"
2016Childrens HospitalFlossieEpisode: "Doctor Beth"
2016The Carmichael ShowFrancesEpisode: "Funeral"