‘All in the Family’ Creator Norman Lear Says He Based Archie Bunker on His Father

TV mogul Norman Lear is known for writing and producing many popular 1970s sitcoms including All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, and more. All in the Family debuted in 1971, and for five years it was the most-watched show on television in part due to Lear’s inspiration from his father. The popular series was notorious for its deep discussions involving current events of the time. Storylines often consisted of pertinent issues such as racism, women’s rights, politics, and more.

A large part of the show’s popularity comes from its most notable character, Archibald “Archie” Bunker. Lear opens up to Morning Edition about his vision behind the ignorant yet lovable family man that is Archie Bunker.

“I had a father who was a bit of an Archie Bunker,” said Lear, who admits his father would use racist terms. “He was, in my mind, a long way to what became Archie Bunker.”

Lear recalls dozens of actors interviewing for the role of Archie. He tells Morning Edition, when O’Connor walked in, “we sit at this little table and he reads. You know I wish I could express — my entire body felt, ‘Oh my god. This is Archie.’ “

Who is Archie Bunker?

Archibald “Archie” Bunker, played by Emmy award-winner Caroll O’Connor, is a conservative blue-collar worker and all-around family man. The Bunker family consists of Archie’s wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and son-in-law Michael “Mike” Stivic (Rob Reiner).

Actor Caroll O’Connor played the infamous Archie for all nine seasons on All in the Family. Additionally, he continued the role for another four years in series spinoff, Archie Bunker’s Place.

Getting to Know ‘All in the Family’ the Real Edith Bunker

Archie’s wife Edith Bunker, played by Jean Stapleton, went through an evolution of sorts. Beginning as a shy housewife, Edit transformed over time and became a powerful figure in the feminist movement.

“[Edith] was developed to respond to any situation in life the way the most decent good person, the way the most Jesus-like, if you will, person would respond,” Lear told Morning Edition. “[It’s] absolutely wonderful the talent Jean Stapleton brought to that character.”

At 99 years old, Lear continues to inspire through the many TV shows he’s produced, written and created. His advice is not to dwell too much on the past.

“Two little words we don’t pay enough attention to: over and next. When something is over, it is over and we are on to [the] next. I like to think about the hammock in the middle of those two words. That’s living in the moment. That’s the moment I believe I’m living as I complete this sentence. And it couldn’t be more important to me.”