Jean Stapleton considered herself an introvert

Offstage, she was much more reserved.

Sony Pictures Television

There's a ton of insight to be gained from hearing great actors speak about their characters. There's a thin layer of artifice behind which honesty is found. Nobody is completely honest about themselves, but if you add the protective mask of "acting," then the truth comes out much more freely. 

Take, for example, the life of Jean Stapleton. She became a pop culture icon as Edith Bunker on All in the Family. While she wasn't the show's breakout star (this distinction, of course, belonged to Carroll O'Connor as Archie), Stapleton was central to the production. Edith was the humanity that balanced out Archie's more chafing beliefs, and her presence was crucial to the show's success.

While Jean Stapleton was pretty forthcoming in interviews, a lot of the most revealing biographical details come when she speaks about Edith. Again, the veneer of theater allowed Stapleton to expose the depths of her personality as she compared and contrasted herself with her character.

In a 1972 article in The Ottawa Citizen, Jean Stapleton was awarded the opportunity to speak about her role on one of TV's biggest shows. All in the Family had just finished airing its second season, so viewers were familiar with Edith. What they truly wanted to know about, though, was Jean Stapleton.

Interestingly enough for a performer, Stapleton admitted that, unlike her character, she was a bit more restrained and quiet when the cameras weren't rolling.

"I don't think I'm even an extrovert," she said. "I'm rather reserved. It's true of a lot of actors. They put on a cloak when they go on stage and that's why they enjoy it so much.

Another key difference between Stapleton and Edith Bunker? In real life, Jean Stapleton had a wardrobe that was much better suited for a Hollywood actress.

"I play these old bags and this is a nice contrast," she said of the outfit she wore to the Tony Awards. "I'm glad when people tell me I don't look like Edith Bunker."

Fans looking for a big similarity between actor and character just needed to pull back that outermost layer to find a commonality just beneath the surface.

"I have to admit I think I'm square," said Stapleton.

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