On television, supporting actress Roxie Roker may best be remembered for playing outspoken Helen Willis for ten years on the popular television sitcom The Jeffersons. She and TV husband Franklin Cover comprised the first interracial married couple on network television. But in addition to television, Roker had also found success on stage and in the occasional feature film. Miami-born and Brooklyn-raised, Roker graduated from Howard University with a drama degree and then flew to England to study at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-on-Avon. During the 1960s, Roker supported herself with a secretarial job at NBC's New York office while trying to find acting jobs. Roker launched her drama career off-Broadway in productions such as Jean Genet's The Blacks. Between 1967 and '68, Roker hosted a local community television show, but that wasn't close enough to acting, so she quit to practice her craft full time. With the Negro Ensemble Company she appeared in Ododo and Rosalie Pritchet. In 1974, she earned an Obie and a Tony nomination for The River Niger. In 1975, shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Norman Lear cast Roker in The Jeffersons. In addition to this role, Roker occasionally guest-starred on other series and appeared in television movies. Her feature-film appearances were rare. Roker made her debut in Claudine (1974). In the '90s, Roker resumed her stage career, appearing in a theatrical version of The Jeffersons and then touring opposite Mary Martin and Carol Channing in Legends. Roker's son, Lenny Kravitz is a noted rock musician and record producer.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.
- Attended the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-on-Avon, England.
- Hosted the community-access program Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant in the late '60s.
- Won an Obie Award in 1973 for her performance in the play The River Niger.
- Played one half of TV's first interracial married couple on The Jeffersons.
- Served as a board member of the Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.