Cleveland-born Franklin Cover was a very active theater actor before he became a familiar face to the television audience as Tom Willis, half of TV's first interracial couple, on The Jeffersons. His career began in Shakespeare's "Henry IV" and "Hamlet," followed by early roles on Naked City and The Jackie Gleason Show. After replacing another 1970s TV star, Soap's Robert Mandan, in the Broadway musical "Applause," Cover made his way to the big screen as a husband of one of The Stepford Wives (the original). The same year, he took the role of Tom Willis. In 1982, he did a made-for-TV movie double duty as two "Double-H" characters: Hubert Humphrey in A Woman Called Golda and Herbert Hoover in The Day the Bubble Burst. He also made a The Love Boat appearance and guest starred on 227.
In the late '80s, he appeared in Wall Street and on stage with Edward Asner and Madeline Kahn in the revival of the play "Born Yesterday." With TV appearances on Mad About You and Coach, Cover made took his final TV role as a judge on Will & Grace before dying of pneumonia Feb. 5, 2006.
Tom Willis likes to hug; he's a big man with a big heart. He's married to the regal Helen, with whom he has a son and a daughter - the latter of whom marries Lionel Jefferson. Though jovial, Tom has a sarcastic wit. George Jefferson is openly hostile to this "honky," but later the two men become best friends and together buy Charlie's Bar.