The actor performed the role of Gitlow in the original Broadway production of Purlie.
Hemsley is best known for his role as George Jefferson in the sit-coms All in the Family and its long-running spin-off The Jeffersons. He received Emmy nominations for his work in the latter series in 1984 and 1985. Additional credits include the role of Deacon Ernest Frye on the television series Amen and the voice of triceratops B.P. Richfield in the television series Dinosaurs.