Despite their differences, Norman Lear said that having Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker was ''so worth it''
The funny thing about fictional characters is that they're written and acted well enough, it's almost like they take on a life of their own. Much like real people grow over time, the best characters are able to develop as time passes and are sometimes completely unrecognizable from script to screen.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it took a village and a half to raise Archie Bunker by the time All In The Family premiered. Lear has stated multiple times that Bunker is based on his father. According to an interview with NPR, Lear stated, "I had a father who was a bit of an Archie Bunker." Lear continued, "He was, in my mind, a long way to what became Archie Bunker."
Along with Lear, Carroll O'Connor is undoubtedly responsible, at least partially, for bringing Bunker to life. According to Rock Me On the Water by Ronald Brownstein, O'Connor acknowledged that he and Archie Bunker came from different places during an interview with the Academy. However, he emphasized that he had an understanding of the character that went beyond the typical layman. He said, "I wasn't from Archie's background. I came from a well-to-do, educated background. But I sure was a white man, I sure was a Christian, and I sure understood Christian bias... My writers couldn't tell me that. I knew that."
Because both men felt they held responsibility for Archie Bunker, it's no wonder that it led to tension on set. O'Connor frequently clashed with the writers and often attempted to do his own rewrites on the scripts. More than once, O'Connor actually chose to strike and refused to film his All In the Family scenes.
Despite all of this, Lear spoke about working with O'Connor in Rock Me on the Water and said that, despite all the hardships, having O'Connor as Archie Bunker was "So worth it." He explained, "You write a character like Archie Bunker, it's a lot of words... but Carroll O'Connor gave it life." In an interview with NPR, he also described first laying eyes on O'Connor during the audition process and stated, "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.'"
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