For six years, the cast of “Good Times” entertained viewers for 30 minutes each week. From 1974 to 1979, this hit CBS sitcom was an evening staple in the primetime viewing line-up, and with good reason. The Evans family — and friend and neighbor Willona Woods, of course — shared a glimpse into their lives, which were not easy. They had modest means, living paycheck to paycheck in the projects of inner-city Chicago. They had each other, though, which was the point. In fact, “Good Times” was the first two-parent Black family featured on TV. (Here is a list of the 26 famous firsts by black artists in Hollywood history.)
Theirs was a tight-knit family that celebrated together and, when James was killed in a car accident in season 3, they mourned together. Every episode delivered a meaningful message on everything from managing bullies, navigating gun violence, drug and alcohol abuse and so much more. Each situation was handled with care — an even mix of patience and tough love.
Since it’s been more than four decades since we’ve seen the Evans family on television, it’s time we catch up with each of the “Good Times” cast to find out what they’ve been up to since the show concluded back in 1979.
Esther Rolle played family matriarch Florida Evans for five of the six seasons that “Good Times” aired. (She opted out of season 5 due to a dispute with the show’s executive producer Norman Lear.) Her character, Florida, originated on the hit show “Maude,” and was the reason for the “Good Times” spin-off. Rolle went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for her role. After “Good Times” went off the air, Rolle went on to do smaller roles and guest appearances, none of which were as successful as that of Florida Evans. Rolle passed away in 1998 due to complications from diabetes. She was 78 years old.
John Amos had a lackluster football career prior to heading to Hollywood. But once he arrived in Tinseltown, he had a steady string of roles on such hits as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Maude” and “Sanford and Son.” His role as James Evans on “Good Times” was brief, only lasting three of the six seasons before he was fired for vocalizing what he viewed as a lack of authenticity of the true African-American experience. His dismissal didn’t hinder his career, though, as he landed a steady string of film and television roles that have kept him busy ever since. He received an Emmy nomination for his role as Kunta Kinte in the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s book of the same name. Amos, now 83 years old, resides in Colorado.
Jimmie “JJ” Walker
Die-hard “Good Times” fans know Jimmie “JJ” Walker as Kid Dyn-o-mite, a nickname he often used when referring to himself both in real life and on the show. He played JJ, the eldest of the three Evans children and a gifted artist, on all six seasons of the show. Since the show ended, Jimmie made guest appearances on a variety of game shows and television series and had several small roles on short-lived TV shows. He has continued touring with his comedy act, and in 2012, he released Dyn-o-mite! Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times – A Memoir. Today, he’s most often recognized as the face promoting the various Medicare benefits and packages.
Prior to her role as Thelma Evans, the only daughter of James and Florida, BernNadette Stanis had a run as a pageant queen, earning her most notable wins as Miss Brooklyn and runner-up in Miss New York. Following her pageant life, Stanis embarked on her acting career, landing the role of NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 25: Actor John Amos attends Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection New York Premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on June 25, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)Thelma, which she held for all six seasons that “Good Times” aired. Once the show wrapped, Stanis appeared in several TV shows and films, and she wrote four books. Married four times, Stanis has two children. The 69-year-old lives with her family in Atlanta, GA.
Ralph Carter played the youngest Evans child, Michael, for the show’s entire run. Prior to his time on “Good Times,” Carter garnered Broadway experience in Raisin. After the sitcom wrapped, however, he explored his singing talents, releasing Young and in Love. He’s also since returned to the small stage, most recently appearing in 2005 in “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” for the Classical Theatre of Harlem. The 62-year-old lives in New York.
She was everyone’s favorite neighbor, and she showed up at any and all hours with a vibrant smile and a nosy interest. Willona Woods, played by Ja’net DuBois, was a six-season staple on “Good Times,” and after the show wrapped, she enjoyed a fairly prolific acting career until the mid-’00s. With an active stage career prior to the hit sitcom, DuBois enjoyed a variety of fruitful endeavors with high-profile celebrities like Janet Jackson, Maya Angelou and the Wayans Brothers. She won several Emmy Awards for her voiceover work, and she was a lifelong supporter of the arts through the Ja’net DuBois Academy of Theater Arts and Sciences and the co-founding of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival. DuBois died in 2020 of cardiac arrest.
The youngest of the Jackson singing dynasty garnered some screen time in seasons 5 and 6 as “Good Times” cast member Penny, an abused child who Willona adopted. Perhaps the cast member with the most far-reaching celebrity status, Janet Jackson went on to record smash-hit records like Control and Rhythm Nation 1814 and star on the big screen’s Poetic Justice. And while her Super Bowl half-time performance with Justin Timberlake put her on the map for all the wrong reasons, she continues to prove her staying power with her portfolio of film and album releases as well as her concert tour schedule. The 57-year-old has one child.
Johnny Brown played Nathan Bookman (aka “Booger” or “Buffalo Butt”) on “Good Times” in a recurring role that morphed into a main character for the final two seasons of the show. Brown was both a singer and actor, and his career post-“Good Times” included small parts on a variety of shows, including “Sister Sister,” “Martin” and “Family Matters.” His final acting credit was in 2013’s In Da Cut. Brown passed away in 2022 at the age of 84.