If there’s anything I learned from watching Good Times, it’s that even when you think you’ve got it bad, you could have it worse–like the Evans family. I’m just saying, these people went through every bad thing you could think of in their housing project in Chicago (allegedly Cabrini-Green). From JJ getting shot, to James Evans dying and Penny getting abused and burned with an iron by her mother, “Good Times” gave it to you REAL. Realer than reality TV, and that’s probably why so many people adored the show, and almost 40 years after its first airing, still do. The show ran from 1974-1979, but if you were wondering what the cast is up to now (and not the 8 million people who guest starred), we’ve got you covered. As usual, be prepared to click.
Talk about being the coolest neighbor ever! The character of Willona Woods was sassy, smart, beautiful and had a joke for anybody who thought they were going to play her (that goes for you Bookman!). But aside from being funny and cool, she clearly had a big heart, taking in Janet Jackson’s character of Penny after finding out she was abused, and always being there for her girl Florida. After the show ended, DuBois (who sang and co-wrote the theme song for “The Jeffersons”) went on to do films like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, and have recurring roles on shows like “The Wayans Bros.,” did voice work for the show “The PJ’s,” (she won two Emmy’s for her work) and most recently did work for the TV series, “G.I. Joe: Renegades.”
Where would the Evans family have been without Florida? The matriarch of the family, she took no mess, but was always a supportive ear for her children’s issues. The widow was the backbone of her family, and she also had many memorable lines and moments on the show: *Drops bowl* “Damn, damn, damn DAMN!!!!” Once the show ended, Rolle released an album, The Garden of My Mind, did a little bit of psychic work (side eye), and appeared in a great deal of movies. That includes How to Make an America Quilt, Rosewood and Down in the Delta. Rolle passed away in 1998 due to complications from diabetes. She was 78.
It’s kid, “dyno-MITE!!!” The lanky character of J.J. was probably what made the show so popular, what with his great sense of humor and signature phrase. I was just always blown away by the fact that they tried to make him out to be a sex symbol with all the girlfriends he had on the show and all the young gals trying to get at him. It could be just me, but homeboy was far from that. On top of that, he always had a wise crack for his sister Thelma, and he was a gifted painter. While Walker was on top of the world during the show’s run (even starring alongside Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby in the film Let’s Do It Again), afterwards, the well dried up. He did Airplane, the TV shows “At Ease,” and “Bustin Loose,” and even did some guest appearances on “Everybody Hates Chris.” He’s currently doing work on the stand-up comedy circuit.
James Evans, Sr was the hard-working father of the Evans clan. He did numerous jobs to keep a roof over his family’s head, and that’s probably why he, like Florida, didn’t take any mess from any of his kids (or anybody for that matter). He had a fiery temper, but also had a good sense of humor that made him lovable. Unfortunately, we know his character was killed in a car crash around the third season, so what was he doing after the fact? A lot! He did work on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “All About the Andersons,” and appeared on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He also did a lot of film work, including The Player’s Club, Coming to America, Die Hard 2, and is currently working on Madea’s Witness Protection. He is also the writer/producer of a a one-man show called, “Halley’s Comet.”
Bern Nadette Stanis
Miss Thelma Evans was the dream girl of many men in the country back when the show ran, and was highly sought after on the show. She was proposed to numerous times by numerous men, but only let the character Keith put a ring on it. After the show ended, the actress didn’t really show up all over the place like some of her other co-stars. She had small guest appearances on shows like “The Cosby Show,” “What’s Happening Now” and “Girlfriends.” But what has kept the checks coming in for her are the books she writes, including Situations 101: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, and her poetry book, For Men Only.
“But mama, BOY is a white racist word!” Oh Michael Evans, always militant, always entertaining. Michael was the very smart and very ambitious little brother in the Evans family, often involved in protests and getting in trouble for his big mouth. But did you know that the man who played him was a singer? He was a disco star back in the day and even put out an album called Get it Right in ’85. But as for acting? No dice. Instead, he writes plays, including his most recent work, “Grandma’s Hands.”
Bookman was the bubble-butt having super in their building who used to go toe-to-toe with Willona. He was a hot, but funny mess. After the show ended in ’79, Brown went on to do voice work for “The Chipmunks,” appeared on “227,” “The Parkers,” and even had a small role in the movie Life. His most recent role was an appearance on the show, “Everybody Hates Chris.” I’m guessing that comedy was just the go-to place of employment for actors from classic black TV shows…
Loved little Penny, and of course, we know her crazy story. Penny’s mother was a crazy and abusive woman who held a grudge against her daughter for her loneliness, and when she burned her up and beat her up to the point where the Evans family noticed, Willona went through the absolute most to look out for her and adopt her. Of course, we know that Janet became an international superstar thanks to her music, but she still did her share of acting. Right after “Good Times,” she had a role on “Diff’rent Strokes” as Willis Jackson’s girlfriend, and later on the show “Fame.” Her movie work, which has been…okay…included Poetic Justice, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, the Why Did I Get Married? franchise, and most recently, For Colored Girls.
I wasn’t a big fan of the character of Keith. Sure, he was cute, but the minute he injured his knee he flipped on the whole Evans family. You remember the episode where he slapped Thelma, right? I almost jumped through the TV! But eventually, we know that he got rid of his drinking problem, sucked it up and got a temporary job, and was lucky enough to later get a new football contract and move Thelma out of the ‘hood. After the show, Powers did a little bit of TV work (“The New Mike Hammer,” and a TV movie called “Shattered Vows”), but he left LA in the ’80s and retired from acting, and is allegedly living in Rhode Island. He’s MIA, so no up-to-date photos.
Mr. Gunn’s character of Carl Dixon is important to highlight because even though he only was in a few episodes, he played a pivotal role: he was Florida’s atheist husband near the end of the show. His character was diagnosed with cancer and because of it, tries to call of their engagement. But in the end, he pulls it together, and the two move to Arizona together. In real life, Moses Gunn was an award-winning stage actor, but after the show ended, he stuck to doing a lot of big TV work. He was on “Little House on the Prairie,” “Father Murphy,” “A Man Called Hawk,” and the TV movie, “House of Dies Drear” (love that movie!). His last real role was on the show, “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Gunn passed away in ’93 after having complications due to his asthma. He was 64.
Talk about putting the “cra” in crazy. As Mrs. Lynetta Gordon, Chip Fields-Hurd was the abusive mother of Penny. Though Willona begged her to seek help, after Gordon’s abuse was brought to light, she left her daughter behind, but acknowledged that her daughter deserved better before leaving. She tried to return a year later as the wife of a wealthy man, and in an effort to get her daughter back from Willona, Gordon framed her as being a bad parent. But alas, that didn’t work. In real life, we know that she’s a good mother, and the mother of actresses Kim and Alexis Fields. She’s been all over TV, including acting on “The Parkers,” “The Wayans Bros.” and “Living Single” as Regine’s (again, Kim Fields) mom. But she also is a director, and has directed episodes of “House of Payne,” “Meet the Browns,” “Hannah Montana,” “Just Jordan,” and “One on One.”
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