This article is a part of my Melanin Arts series, which is dedicated to the achievements and contributions of artistic people of color.
The Jeffersons had a large cast of actors in recurring supporting roles. In this, the final article dedicated to catching up with the cast members of the iconic 80s TV show, we will uncover the current whereabouts of Paul Bentley, who portrayed Mr. Bentley, Ned Wertimer, who played Ralph, the doorman; Danny Wells, who played Charlie the bartender, and Jay Hammer, who played Alan Willis, the son of Tom and Helen Willis.
Before the Jeffersons, Paul Benedict's likeness was already familiar most with members of Generation X, who remembered him as The Number Painter on Sesame Street. We might not have known his name, but we easily recognized his face.
Long before The Jeffersons, Benedict acted in the Theater Company of Boston, where he performed with Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino.
Surprisingly to most people, Paul Benedict was, in fact, not British, as he grew up in Silver City, New Mexico. Although he had several film roles to include, Milos Forman's Taking Off (1971) and Sydney Pollak's 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, alongside Robert Redford, many African-American audiences also remembered him for his role as a slave trader in the film, Mandingo (1975).
After The Jeffersons ended, Benedict had stints on TV shows, to include The Twilight Zone, Murder She Wrote, and A Different World, and film roles in Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988), The Addams Family (1991) and The Devil's Advocate (1997)
Paul Benedict's final appearance was a small role in a 2008 film called Side by Each. On December 1, 2008, the 70 year old actor was found dead of unknown causes at his home in Martha's Vineyard.
Edward "Ned" Wertimer began his career in the 1960s, and by the time The Jeffersons came his way, he had already had over 100 guest starring credits in roles from Gunsmoke to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).
As Ralph the doorman, Ned Wertimer appeared in 57 of the total 253 episodes of The Jeffersons, but his character was never fully developed, and we only knew him as the doorman who was serious about his gratuity...
In his real life, Wertimer seemed like quite the hipster, as he loved exotic travels and he married Dr. Skyne Uku, who taught Africana Studies classes like "The History of Slavery" and "Ancient African Civilizations" at Cal State University in Long Beach.
Ned Wertimer died on January 2, 2013 after he suffered a fall in his Burbank, California home, which he never recovered from months previously. He was 89 years old
Actor Danny Wells was born Jack Westleman in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His overall acting career spanned more than 40 years, and it all began with his appearance on Love, American Style in 1972.
His character of Charlie was not only the bartender, he was also the owner of Charlies Bar, if you'll remember, it sat on the ground floor of the Jefferson's apartment building. Although he wasn't what I would call a main character on the show, he did have some important scenes.
In the last season of the show, it was discovered that Charlie had a serious drinking problem and he had been living in the back room of the bar, because his wife kicked him out. To further complicate matters, the bar was facing eviction, because he was barely breaking even. In the end, George Jefferson buys the bar and he and Charlie become partners.
Although his role on The Jeffersons is the role for which he is best remembered, he secured spots on big film projects like Private Benjamin in 1980 alongside Goldie Hawn, The Woman in Red (1984) with Gene Wilder and Magnolia (1999) with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.
Most of his work was on television, where he appeared in roles like, Sanford and Son, CHiPs, and The A-Team - Oh yeah, I just remembered him as Officer Smitty from Sanford and Son, do you remember?..
If you have a memory for classic TV ads, you might also remember that he played the store manager in Kmart commercials. He also had quite a busy career voice acting in roles from Super Mario Bros. Super Show! (Luigi), to Heathcliff, Batman: The Animated Series and Johnny Bravo.
Danny Wells died of cancer on November 28, 2013, jut shy of the 30th anniversary celebration of his character on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! He is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
Jay Hammer is the actor who played Jenny Wilis' brother. If you'll remember, their parents, Tom and Helen Willis were interracial. Instead of having two mixed children, one of their kids looked completely white (Alan), and the other looked completely black (Jenny). This is a real phenomenon that happens more often than most people might believe.
Although Hammer darted in and out of The Jeffersons cast as Jenny's brother, he became more well known as an actor for the role as Fletcher Reade on the Daytime Soap Opera, Guiding Light, whom he played from 1984 to 2009.
Jay Hammer is still alive today, but he has been absent from the acting scene for quite a long while
© 2018 Rachelle Williams