Sony Pictures Television

LaWanda Page said Redd Foxx rehearsed with her so she wouldn't get fired

Sometimes having a sister-in-law can be tough — especially when the relationship isn't the best. LaWanda Page portrayed that type of in-law on Sanford and Son. She was the sister of Fred Sanford's late wife, Elizabeth, who died years before. Aunt Esther (Page) often visited the junkyard to stay in touch with Lamont and to bicker with Fred. 

It was a role that Page never saw herself in, as she made a living from her stand-up comedy nightclub performances and never acted. One day, she decided to move back home to St. Louis from Los Angeles to care for her sick mother, but a phone call from Redd Foxx turned her life around.

Foxx told her about the role of Aunt Esther and believed that she should audition. Although she had no acting credits or classes, Page was offered the part; however, producers wanted to replace her before taping.

"Thank goodness for my old friend Redd Foxx," Page told The New York Times in 1974. "He believed in me and knew what I could do. You see, I never had any acting experience, never had any lessons or anything. Well, while I was working [on the show], the producers told Redd they'd have to replace me, that I wasn't cutting it."

Can you imagine telling LaWanda Page that she didn't fit the role of Aunt Esther? It sounds insane, and Redd Foxx wasn't afraid to defend his friend and her talents.

"Redd said, 'No!' He and I went to school together and have worked a lot of clubs together. He said, 'I know what LaWanda can do, and I know she can be terrific,'" the actress added. "Well, he had me over to his house and rehearsed with me all day. I told him I was nervous because, after all, he had become a big star. He just laughed at me."

Foxx had confidence, and he knew Page had some deep within. She just needed a friend to help her. According to Page, when she played Esther, she wasn't acting. She was simply just being herself.

The actress took the role and became one with it, and because of that she'll always be everyone's Aunt Esther.

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