Redd Foxx said the key to Sanford and Son's success was honesty

Many factors go into creating a popular show. For Norman Lear's Sanford and Son, Redd Foxx used a word that many don't think about regarding production success: honesty.

Redd Foxx played Fred Sanford, a dramatic father who owned a junkyard business with his son Lamont. His favorite words were, "I'm coming to join you, Elizabeth," referring to his wife who passed. It was his way of not taking responsibility for his actions or facing consequences, so he'd act like he was in pain.

Money was limited, and the father-son duo did all they could to make ends meet. Of course, they found themselves in crazy situations, and for it to be successfully turned into plots for episodes, they had to be portrayed authentically.

How could Sanford and Son do that? It started with honesty between the stars of the show and the writers, and it was the key needed to unlock that door.

"We sit around a table, and I tell them — and Demond Wilson does the same thing — that this is essentially a black show reflecting black experiences, and to make it survive, we have to keep it real," Foxx said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1973.

What did the actor mean by keeping it real? He was referring to language, appearance and plots. All three needed to feel like it could happen to minorities in real life, how they would react and the words they'd say. What if the audience misinterpreted something? Well, Redd Foxx had faith in the power of humor.

"I have a lot of faith in the power of humor. The show is light-hearted, it doesn't drive home a lesson, but it can open up people's minds enough for them to see how stupid every kind of prejudice can be. Sanford has his hangups, his own kind of prejudices, and while they're laughing at them, the people watching will get a message."

The Sanford and Son audience got those messages for six seasons as Fred and Lamont leaned on each other to solve their problems and create a better life.