The death of Redd Foxx was devastating for The Royal Family cast
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Redd Foxx was a legend in all regards. He broke down many barriers on television and made people laugh while doing it. The comedian became popular for his role on the mega-hit, Sanford and Son, where he played the role of Fred Sanford.
After starring on Sanford and Son, his fans were always waiting to see what Foxx was going to do next. The Royal Family (1991) was a much anticipated series, and not just because Redd Foxx had a starring role, but because it was another series set to break barriers in Hollywood.
The cast banded together to start filming the first season in 1991, but something major happened.
Foxx, who was 68 at the time, collapsed on set during a rehearsal of The Royal Family. He suffered from a heart attack, leaving his fans, family and friends stunned. Foxx was taken to a hospital, but died a short time later, surrounded by his family and friends.
According to a 1991 interview with The Montgomery Advertiser, the cast and crew weren't sure how to continue the series without Foxx. His presence and memory would always be attached to the show, and continuing without him was almost impossible to do.
"Redd Foxx was blessed with the ability to make people laugh and audiences everywhere loved him for it," said Brandon Tartikoff, the former chairman of Paramount Pictures Corp.
His comedy partner, Slappy White, was heartbroken over the news of his friend. The two had worked and performed together from 1951 to 1956. He was there to watch his comedy partner break barrier after barrier.
"He was like my right hand," White said. "He's going to be missed a great deal because he was pretty creative. The comedy world is going to miss him. He broke a lot of barriers."
According to the interview, Eddie Murphy got the idea for The Royal Family after listening to Foxx's banter on the set of Harlem Nights.
Perhaps one of the people who missed Foxx the most was his co-star and friend Della Reese. The two had been friends for over 40 years. Foxx and Reese were an immediate match on The Royal Family because of their real life friendship and chemistry.
In a 1991 interview with the Democrat and Chronicle, Reese said she and Foxx had worked together for many years and were bonded because they shared similar roots.
"He doesn't have to explain himself to me, and I don't have to explain me to him," Reese said. "We both came from the slums - that was before the 'ghetto.'... I understand that. And we can relate and there's no reason for a fence, or trouble, or confusion because what we have done, we have done through these 40 years together."
After Foxx's passing, Reese said she used prayer to help her get through the devastating news. She said she preferred saying he "left" rather than he "died."
"It's just that Redd was ready to leave and nobody knew it until he left," Reese said. "He was ready to do that, darling; He has been my friend for 40 years and I always abided by his decisions, and since he was ready to go, I have to abide by that."