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Roxie Roker

Roxie Roker

American actress

Roxie Albertha Roker (August 28, 1929 – December 2, 1995) was an American actress who portrayed Helen Willis on the CBS sitcom The Jeffersons (1975–1985), half of the first interracial couple to be shown on regular prime time television. Roker is the mother of rock musician Lenny Kravitz and paternal grandmother of actress Zoë Kravitz.

Early life

Roker was born in Miami, Florida. Her mother, Bessie Roker (née Mitchell), was from Georgia and worked as a domestic. Her father, Albert Roker, was a native from Andros, The Bahamas and a porter. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

Career

She began her professional career with the Negro Ensemble Company and became a successful stage actress. She won an Obie Award in 1974 and was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Mattie Williams in The River Niger. She was a reporter on WNEW-TV in New York in the 1970s and hosted a public affairs show for the station known as Inside Bed-Stuy, dealing with events in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Roker portrayed Helen Willis on The Jeffersons, breaking social barriers by becoming one half of the first Caucasian-African-American married couple (along with actor Franklin Cover ) as regular cast member on prime-time TV. She appeared in guest starring roles on many other United States television shows from the 1970s through the 1990s, including "Stone in the River" starring Hal Miller for NBC, Punky Brewster, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, A Different World, Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, 227, Beat the Clock, Fantasy Island, and ABC Afterschool Specials. She had roles in the television miniseries Roots and in the movie Claudine. Roker was also a children’s advocate who was cited by the city of Los Angeles for her community work.

Personal life

Roker graduated from Howard University, where she was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was married to television producer Sy Kravitz in 1962. Like her Jeffersons character Helen Willis, Roker had an interracial marriage to a white man. The couple had a son, singer-songwriter and actor Lenny Kravitz (born May 26, 1964), and divorced in 1985. Weather anchor Al Roker and Roxie Roker were second cousins once removed.

Death

Roker died in Los Angeles, California, on December 2, 1995, of breast cancer at the age of 66.

Timeline

August 28, 1929
Roxie Roker was born in Miami.

Patents

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