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‘Good Times’ Cast Then and Now: Catch Up With the Evans Family!

Find out which cast member sang the theme song to 'The Jeffersons'! 


The Good Times cast came into our living rooms in the 1970s and stood out as a beacon of humor, heart and social commentary. Created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, with Norman Lear as executive producer, the show first aired on February 8, 1974, and quickly became a cultural phenomenon that resonated with audiences for its portrayal of a Black family navigating the challenges of inner-city life. Running for six seasons until August 1, 1979, the show’s success was marked not only by its popularity, but also by the enduring impact it had on the landscape of television.

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Good Times was a spin-off of the popular series Maude and centered around the Evans family, who lived in the Cabrini-Green housing projects of Chicago. The show dealt with real-life issues like poverty, racism, and the struggle for upward mobility, all while infusing humor into the narrative. The main characters included James Evans, portrayed by John Amos, his wife Florida Evans, played by Esther Rolle, and their three children – J.J., Thelma, and Michael, portrayed by Jimmie Walker, BernNadette Stanis and Ralph Carter.

The show garnered critical acclaim for its authentic portrayal of African American life, earning a devoted fanbase. Its unique blend of comedy and social commentary set it apart from other sitcoms of the time, making Good Times a trailblazer in depicting the challenges faced by Black families in America.

The Evans family became a symbol of resilience and unity, resonating with viewers of all backgrounds.

Did you know? Good Times was a spin-off of a spin-off. It was a spin-off of Maude, which was itself a spin-off of All in the Family. And a young Janet Jackson joined the cast in the fifth season.

Good Times cast then and now

John Amos as James Evans

John Amos as James Evans (Good Times Cast)
1975/2016 John Kisch Archive / Contributor/Getty; Shareif Ziyadat / Contributor/Getty

Born in 1939, in Newark, New Jersey, John Amos portrayed James Evans, the patriarch of the Evans family. His strong, no-nonsense demeanor and unwavering commitment to his family made him a beloved character on the show.

Prior to joining the Good Times cast, Amos played the role of Gordy, the weatherman in the The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  He was on that show for three seasons, then he landed the recurring role of the sporadically-unemployed husband of maid Florida Evans (played by Esther Rolle) on Norman Lear’s Maude. The two characters were such a hit that Lear used them as the parental leads in the spin-off Good Times.

After Good Times, Amos continue to act and appeared in several movies including Die Hard 2 and Coming to America. He was most recently seen in 2023’s The Last Rifleman.

Did you know? Amos was not happy when Good Times shifted away from his character and more toward the silly antics of his on-screen son JJ, the aimless, egotistical, jive-talking teenager. Amos started to clash with higher-ups and in 1976 he was released from the series. His character was killed in an off-camera car accident.

Esther Rolle as Florida Evans

Esther Rolle as Florida Evans (Good Times Cast) Esther Rolle as Florida Evans (Good Times Cast)
1979/; Paul Natkin / Contributor/Getty

Born in 1920, in Pompano Beach, Florida, Esther Rolle played Florida Evans in the Good Times cast. Florida was the matriarch of the Evans family. Her character was known for her strength, compassion, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Rolle had bit parts in several shows — including One Life to Live — before getting her big break playing the feisty maid in the hit television sitcom Maude. She then transitioned to its spin-off Good Times.  

After the series, she appeared in many films including Driving Miss Daisy, Down in the Delta and Rosewood. She won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role in the miniseries Summer of My German Soldier.

Rolle also made guest appearances in several television series including Love Boat, Murder She Wrote and Touched by an Angel.

She died in 1998 at the age of 78.

Did you know? Rolle was the 10th of 18 children. 

Jimmie Walker as J.J. Evans in the Good Times cast

Jimmie Walker as J.J. Evans (Good Times Cast)
1979/; Paras Griffin / Stringer

Born in 1947, in the Bronx, New York, Jimmie Walker played J.J. Evans, the charismatic oldest son in the Evans family. His catchphrase Dy-no-mite! became iconic, solidifying his status as a pop culture phenomenon. He became the breakout star of the show.

Before joining the Good Times cast, Walker worked as a stand-up comedian, making a name for himself with his witty humor. His breakout television role was on Good Times.

After the series ended, he had guest appearances in many television shows including Scrubs, Blossom and The Drew Carey Show. 

Most recently, he appeared in several episodes of the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful and in 2023 he was in the movie Don’t Suck. Today, he still performs stand-up comedy.

Did you know? Walker was 26 when he was cast in the role of teenage J.J.

BernNadette Stanis as Thelma Evans in the Good Times cast

BernNadette Stanis as Thelma Evans (Good Times Cast)
1978/2024 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/Getty; Carol Lee Rose / Stringer/Getty

Born in 1953, in Brooklyn, New York, BernNadette Stanis played Thelma Evans, the intelligent and ambitious daughter in the Evans family. Her character tackled many issues including sexism and racism.

Good Times was Stanis’ first acting role. After the series, she had guest appearances in several shows including What’s Happening and The Cosby Show. Most recently, she had a reoccurring role in the 2022’s television series The Family Business and she appeared in the 2023 movie A Christmas Blessing.

Did you know? Although none of the main characters appeared in every episode, BernNadette Stanis appeared in every episode except one.

Ralph Carter as Michael Evans in the Good Times cast

Ralph Carter as Michael Evans
1974/2024 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/Getty; Brian Stukes / Contributor/Getty

Born in 1961, in New York City, Ralph Carter played Michael Evans, the youngest member of the Evans family. His character was known for his social awareness and activism, reflecting the changing times of the 1970s.

Ironically, Carter had several roles before joining the Good Times cast.  At 9, he was featured in the musical The Me Nobody Knows and from there, he landed roles in other stage productions including Tough to Get Help, Dude and Via Galactica.

His also played Travis Younger in Raisin, for which he was nominated for a 1974 Tony Award in the category for best supporting or featured actor in a musical.

But most people know him from his role as Michael Evans. Carter told ABC, “I was fortunate to be in the explosion, not only of the African American theater in the 1970s but into that wave of consciousness and beautiful television productions that featured African American artists. I’m very grateful for the people who taught me along the way.

After Good Times, Carter returned to the theater. In fact, in 1989 Carter reunited with his former co-star John Amos on the stage in the production of Pass is the Pass. Today, Carter is the vice president of the Audience Development Committee, an organization dedicated to celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the theater world.

Did you know? At the height of his Good Times run, Carter was groomed for teen-idol singing status. Mercury Records produced Carter’s one and only release, the 1976 Young and In Love. Ralph’s two singles were Extra Extra (Read All About it) and When You’re Young and In Love.

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Ja’net DuBois as Willona Woods

Ja'net DuBois as Willona Woods
1975/2019 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/Getty; Robin L Marshall / Contributor/Getty

Born in 1932, in Brooklyn, New York, Ja’net DuBois played Willona Woods in the Good Times cast. Willona was the vivacious neighbor and close friend of the Evans family. Her character brought humor and warmth to the show and she quickly became a fan favorite.

Prior to that role, DuBois began her career on Broadway. She appeared in various plays, including Golden Boy with Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Gossett Jr., and Raisin in the Sun. From theater, she moved onto the screen. She appeared in the daytime series, Love of Life. She also received a Peabody Award for her role in the 1969 CBS children’s movie J.T.

But it was her role in Good Times that brought her critical fame.

After Good Times, DuBois continued her acting career, with notable appearances in TV shows like Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, Home Improvement, ER, and Moesha.

She was also part of the voice talent on Eddie Murphy’s The PJs animated series, a role for which she won two primetime Emmy awards.

She passed away in 2020 at the age of 74.

Did you know? DuBois was the voice behind the theme song Movin’ On Up from The Jeffersons. She also co-wrote the song.

Janet Jackson as Penny in the Good Times cast

Janet Jackson as Penny
1974/2024 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/Getty; Dave Benett / Contributor/Getty

Most people know Janet Jackson as a singer, but she started out both singing and acting. Born in 1966 in Gary, Indiana, she is the youngest of ten children. She would often go on tour with her famous brothers and she co-starred with them in the show The Jacksons. In 1977, she got the part of Penny Gordon on Good Times. She quickly captivated audiences and became a regular on the show.

After Good Times, she appeared on the hit TV show Diff’rent Strokes as Charlene Dupree. Soon afterwards came her role on Fame.

But of course, Jackson is most famous for her music. She has been married three times and has one child.

Did you know? Jackson auditioned for the role of Dorothy Dandridge in the 1999 HBO film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, but the role was given to actress Halle Berry.

For more 1970s television, keep reading!

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