The Jeffersons Character Review: Tom and Helen Willis

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Jeffersons. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. In 2021, it is not uncommon to see a mixed marriage in which one spouse has one skin color and the other spouse has another skin color. But it was not so long ago that it was illegal for an African-American and a Caucasian person to be married in the United States. The legal case of Loving v. Virginia is only 54 years old. On The Jeffersons, Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker) were the first interracial married couple on television.

Tom is white and Helen is black. Their neighbor, George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) frequently mocks Tom for being white. Helen, who has become friends with George’s wife, Louise (Isabel Sanford), frequently has a smart comeback about George’s lack of height. After Tom and George become friends, the jokes switch to Tom’s weight. Tom and Helen have two children. Jenny, who looks like her mother, eventually marries George and Louise’s son, Lionel (Mike Evans/Damon Evans). Their son Allan (Andrew Harold Rubin/Jay Hammer), resembles his father and is frequently away from home.

Warning: the above video has the N word in it.

To sum it up: It is easy to love someone who is like you. It is harder to stay in love when your chosen partner/spouse is different and the people around you are not shy about pointing out those differences. But Tom and Helen make it work, proving that when you follow your heart and make a commitment, it is possible to stay together for what hopefully will be the rest of your lives.

Which is why they are memorable characters.

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