Jean Stapleton was thankful she didn't have to choose between family and career
One could argue that her career was family.
Jean Stapleton's whole job on All in the Family was keeping the family together. Yet, according to a 1978 interview with The Clarion-Ledger, the actress said she was often asked what she would pick between family and career.
"This is an inoperative question because I've never had to make a choice," Stapleton said.
There was one time, however, when Stapleton was almost forced to choose between the two. According to the interview, when Stapleton decided to get married in 1957, she knew she may have to make a few sacrifices in order to make a career in Hollywood and a family in Pennsylvania work.
"I regarded my career as an integral part of me, and since it was part of me, how can you give up your identity?" Stapleton asked. "You can't cut yourself up into pieces and give yourself away."
So, she made it work. Stapleton, along with her husband and two kids, would split time between the country roads in PA and the Los Angeles highways. Her husband, William Putch, was best known for his work in Charlie's Angels.
In Stapleton's role as Edith Bunker, she was forced to deal with her fictional husband Archie Bunker, but she also used her platform to speak to the thousands of women watching each week with the message: Don't always listen to your husbands!
"To me, my career signified part of the good in my life," Stapleton said. "It was my conviction that if the marriage was the right idea, it would not require giving up any good by just adding more good."
Stapleton had the best of both worlds, and she made it work between her family on set and her family in real life. Her husband would direct and produce plays at a local theater called Totem Pole Playhouse.
Stapleton, her husband, and even her children would perform in his shows, making it an "all in the family" activity.
"It gives me the opportunity to do a variety of roles, which is stimulating and refreshing," Stapleton said. "It keeps me from getting bored with Edith."
According to the interview, Stapleton had mixed reviews about Edith. Of course, Edith became part of her over time, but when the show first premiered in 1971, she disliked being attached to the character. America started viewing Stapleton as Edith, not Jean, but she put an end to that.
"Some people have troubles separating me from Edith Bunker, but I've never had any trouble separating myself," Stapleton said in a 1979 interview with The Sacramento Bee. "If they hail me as 'Edith' on the street, I turn around and correct them. 'Please call me Jean.'"
Despite her initial hesitation about Edith, the character grew on her — a similar story for most All in the Family viewers, too. Stapleton would talk with great appreciation for Edith as the series went on. She said Edith's development in the series was a product of All in the Family's excellent writers and producers.
"Fame — what is it good for?" Stapleton asked. "Edith Bunker has helped me to communicate with the housewives of America, and I have to be grateful to her for that."