Although he first decided to become an actor at the age of 13, New York native Whitman Mayo didnt achieve true fame until 1972. He was originally hired for one episode of Sanford and Son
as sexagenarian Grady he was only in his 40s at the time -- but was so well-liked that he was given a regular role. "I've always played older parts," Mayo once said. "When I was 19, I played 60. When I was a kid I got pleasure out of studying old people. I took joy in their idiosyncrasies." He then earned his own short-lived spin-off, Grady
, in 1975. When that didn't work out, he returned to Sanford and Son
and carried on the role in the short-lived follow-up series The Sanford Arms
. Mayo acted steadily after the show ended, and was even the subject of a three-week "Where's Grady?" search by newly crowned talk show host Conan O'Brien in 1996; when they "found" him, he was happy to come on the show. He taught drama at Atlanta's Clark University until his death on May 22, 2001.
Grady Wilson is one of Fred Sanford's best friends. A little old and a little slow, he is a good and patient friend. Grady moves out of Fred's central L.A. neighborhood for a time to live with his daughter in fashionable Westwood, but eventually comes home to his friends and takes up residence in the Sanford Arms.