On February 8, 1974, CBS premiered Good Times – the weekly sitcom that served as the first-ever TV show to highlight the full scope of a Black family. During this historic point in American television, John Amos delivered a groundbreaking portrayal of James Evans, the revered patriarch of the iconic Evans clan. For many, Good Times was the first and only glimpse into the dynamic of the African-American household.
Much to the chagrin of the show’s supporters, James Evans was killed during the height of Good Times’ popularity. 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. In May of 2015, in his three-and-a-half-hour interview with the Archive of American Television, Amos shed light on exactly why he “left” Good Times.
“My early departure from the show, I felt that with two younger children—one of whom aspired to become a Supreme Court Justice—that would be Ralph Carter (Michael Evans) and the other, Bern Nadette Stanis (Thelma Evans) who aspired to become a surgeon,” Amos stated. “The differences I had with the producers of the show, I felt that there was too much emphasis being put on J.J. and his chicken hat saying ‘Dynomite!’ every third page, when just as much emphasis and mileage could have been gotten out of my other two children and the concomitant jokes and humor that could have come out of that.”
In an interview with VladTV, Amos also spoke in depth about the lack of diversity on Good Times’ writing team and how he believed the construction of those scripts lead to an inaccurate portrayal of African-Americans. “Their perception or their idea of what a Black family would be and what a Black father would be was totally different from mine, and mine was steeped in reality.”
Stating creative differences with the show’s writers and producers, 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.”
After the fourth season of Good Times, his on-screen wife, Esther Rolle (Florida Evans), also left the sitcom for similar reasons and spoke about her disdain for the stereotypical “J.J Evans” character in a 1975 Ebony magazine interview.