Norman Lear and Carroll O'Connor made television history with "All In The Family," but their behind-the-scenes relationship was rife with tension, Lear told HuffPost Live's Roy Sekoff on Wednesday.
"It was a very stressful relationship, but it was joyful stress because it always turned out to be great. I don't know if I can say that for Carroll -- I don't know if he was built to accept the idea of joyful stress," Lear said. "But we had a victory at the end of every show because we made 250 people sitting in that audience laugh."
Carroll sat down to every reading worried and unhappy. It seemed to make little difference whether his problems with the script turned out to be few or many, small or large. Most of the time we'd hear, "It just doesn't work." He wasn't always wrong, of course. But much of the time we were facing fear, a fear that could render Carroll impossible to deal with. ... For the next eight years, Carroll would continue to dislike every script at the start. It was nothing but fear, and blind anger was his only defense. Certainly he bettered many a scene with it, but it needn't have taken his belligerence to get there.
Lear eventually wrote to O'Connor to express his take on their relationship, and Lear learned how much it meant when O'Connor died of a heart attack in 2001.
"At his home on his desk -- which was a clear, clean desk -- there was a letter I had written him four years before, in which I blessed him for what he meant for Archie and [said I] was sorry we had the kind of disagreements that stressed him so much," Lear said. "And he kept it on his desk. It was the only thing on his desk, and it had been that way for some time."
Watch Lear recall his relationship with O'Connor in the video above, and catch his full HuffPost Live conversation here.
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