John Amos Reveals He Was Fired From Good Times For Trying To Make It More Authentic (Video)
At a crucial point in American television, Good Times presented one of the first beloved Black TV fathers (along with Redd Foxx’s “Fred Sanford”) in John Amos’ groundbreaking portrayal of “James Evans.” Along with his co-star wife “Florida Evans” (played by the late Esther Rolle), they were the first Black nuclear family on the small screen, well before the revered “Huxtables.”
But, at the height of the show’s popularity, James Evans was killed, leaving many devastated and with no closure for the loss of a beloved character. Many wondered why the show’s producers would make such a decision and, over the years, rumors surfaced that they and Amos could not reach an agreement in their contractual negotiations. When Amos appeared for an interview on Sway In The Morning, Sway asked what caused him to leave the show, and Amos spared no punches in his response.
Citing creative differences with the show’s writers, Amos said of his 1976 departure “I left because I was told that my services were no longer needed because I had become a ‘disruptive element.’ In other words, I didn’t have the diplomacy that I think I’ve cultivated over the last 10 or 15 years. Being born in Newark, raised in East Orange, I had a way of voicing my differences against the script that weren’t acceptable to the creative staff. I mean, the writers got tired of having their lives threatened over jokes.”
Continuing, Amos spoke in depth about the lack of diversity on the writing team and how he believed that lead to scripts that did not accurately reflect what Black people said and did in real-life. “The truth of it was when the show first started, we had no African-American writers on the show, and some of the attitudes they had written, as per my character and frankly for some of the other characters as well, caused me to say ‘Uh uh, we can’t do this, we can’t do that.’ And they’d say, ‘What do you mean we can’t do this?’ and they’d go on about their credits and the rest of that and I’d look at each and every one of them and say, ‘Well, how long have you been Black? That just doesn’t happen in the community. We don’t think that way. We don’t act that way. We don’t let our children do that.'”
Amos, who also starred in Roots and Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America, was met with push-back. “I was laying down what I thought were good rules to make the show stronger and better. They didn’t agree with me, and after a few confrontations — not physically initially—although I did offer if they’d want to go that way—you know, Jersey,” he joked, before adding, “So Norman [Lear] had called me one day and said, ‘John, I’ll share two things with you: The good news is the show has been picked up for another 24 more episodes’ — which was a given because we were in the top 10 — ‘The bad news is that you won’t be with us.’ So there was a long, long pause and Norman said, ‘Are you still there?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m still here.’ But I wasn’t. I was no longer with the show.”
After the fourth season of Good Times, Esther Rolle also left the sitcom for similar reasons and admitted her disdain for the stereotypical “J.J Evans” character in a 1975 Ebony magazine interview.
Amos, now 77, was a former professional football player for the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs prior to his acting career.