Carroll O'Connor on playing Archie Bunker: ''It's the hardest work I've ever done as an actor.''

"There's more pressure to it."

Playing a lovable bigot is no easy task, but Carroll O'Connor was able to do it for nine seasons on All In the Family, and then some. While O'Connor has expressed in several interviews that he was nothing like Archie Bunker, when speaking to The Columbia Record, he confessed of playing Archie, "It's the hardest work I've ever done as an actor."

O'Connor continued, "Working in movies first has helped, but most of it's been developed in the last year or so. This is like being on stage, but there's more pressure to it." 

The other issue with O'Connor's creative process was that he didn't allow himself much preparation when getting ready to act as the Bunker patriarch. For example, of the character's facial expressions, he said, "I can't work on 'em. It's an acting problem. I have to feel the reaction very strongly. I have to be in character constantly."

He explained, "I can't ever lose 'Archie.' I have to make myself be 'Bunker' when I react, and the reaction must be natural. The expressions can either set up the next line or just be a pure reaction. Occasionally they aren't real because my concentration is off, and if it happens often, I'm in trouble. It's quite a problem."

But no matter how hefty the problem, the reception of the character was worth all the trouble. Specifically, O'Connor commented on viewers being able to see their own lives and the lives of others in the Bunker family. The actor said, "The people, for the most part, like the reality of the family relationships. Of course, I don't know what that says about American family life." "They relate us to people they know because they do know 'Edith,' 'Gloria,' and 'Mike' somewhere. Of course, 'Archie' is a member of some family everywhere. They know him, unlike the other so-called 'heroes' on TV."

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3 Comments

Andybandit 26 days ago
Carroll O'Connor play Archie the best. There was nobody who could play Archie.
Wiseguy70005 Andybandit 20 days ago
That's because you saw him play Archie first. If another actor had been hired you would have seen that actor first and you wouldn't have seen O'Connor and would be saying the same thing about that actor.
Runeshaper 26 days ago
Carroll O'Connor was a FANTASTIC actor! If playing Archie Bunker was tough for him, I bet many people couldn't tell.
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