Original Stars Reunite for GOOD TIMES Special
“It’s good to see the Evans family again,” John Amos said, as he made a surprise appearance on Live In Front Of A Studio Audience: All In The Family and Good Times, a primetime special celebrating two of producer Norman Lear’s most iconic sitcoms.
Amos was met with enthusiastic cheers as he returned to a franchise he left in acrimony in 1976. For three seasons, he and co-star Esther Rolle (who played matriarch Florida Evans) clashed frequently with producers over the depiction of TV’s first African American family, a situation that worsened as Jimmie Walker’s J.J. – and his catchphrase “Dy-No-Mite” — became a pop culture phenomenon. The disagreements eventually led to Amos’s departure from the series, and the off-screen death of his character James Evans.“It seemed impossible to go on,” producer Norman Lear wrote in his 2014 book, Even This I Get To Experience
More than four decades later, all was forgiven. When Amos embraced Lear — the man who fired him in 1976 — during the closing credits of Live In Front Of A Studio Audience, it was a gift longtime Good Times fans could never could have expected. “I feel so blessed to have been able to work with him again,” Amos told Entertainment Weekly.
The veteran actor was joined by original stars Walker, Ja’net DuBois and Bern Nadette Stanis, who made cameo appearances following the live performance of the 1975 episode “The Politicians.” The new cast included Oscar winner Viola Davis as Florida, Emmy winner Andre Braugher as James, Saturday Night Live star Jay Pharoah as J.J., Corinne Foxx as Thelma, Asante Blackk as Michael and Emmy winner Tiffany Haddish as sassy neighbor Willona Woods.
Forty years after it left the air, everybody’s talking about Good Times again! So, we reached out to original Thelma Bern Nadette Stanis, who shared her thoughts about being in the spotlight again — on the eve of her birthday! The following is a transcript, edited and condensed for space and clarity.
Ja’net DuBois, Jimmie Walker, Bern Nadette Stanis and Jimmy Kimmel (Photo courtesy ABC)
getTV: It was great to see you on primetime TV again. How did you end up being part of the special?
BERN NADETTE STANIS: They gave me a call! I think Jimmie Walker had spoken to Norman Lear and Norman said that would be fine for us to be there. And we came to the studio to meet the other actors, which was incredible.
Did you give Corinne Foxx any advice on how to play Thelma?
She came over to me and said. “I’m honored to be able to do your part. If there’s anything I’m not doing, please tell me.” I watched her and she was doing fine. I told her, “You’re doing great!”
What did you think of the show?
I thought it was a good show. John Amos did a wonderful job. He looked great. I thought everyone did so well! I loved what Viola Davis did with putting the gap in her teeth! That was too cute! [Jay Pharoah] did very well as J.J. Tiffany Hadish was adorable. I can say nothing but good things.
John Amos as Alderman Fred C. Davis and the cast (Photo courtesy ABC)
The script that they chose to perform was so incredibly relevant to what’s going on in this country right now.
[LAUGH] I thought the same thing, because of the climate of the country. Norman is an amazing man. He’s always had incredible vision and foresight and insight! He’s 97. For him to acknowledge Good Times as one of his iconic shows and for us to be there with him and the new actors, it was nice.
And John Amos returning to Good Times 43 years later is like the fairytale ending that no fan could ever have dreamed of.
Exactly! It was like saying “Thank you” to him. For whatever reason he left the show, for whatever reason it didn’t work out at that time, it was like everybody grew up. It was like, “This is what it’s supposed to be.”
If you got in your time machine, went back to 1976, and told young Bern Nadette, “This is all gonna work out in 2019,” would you ever have believed it?
No way! No. How could you? It’s just amazing how things happen. When we mature, and we get older, we realize the gifts that we’re given. And we realize that life is what it is. We’re all gonna end up in the same place, so let’s make it nice for everyone. Let’s heal the wounds.
Jimmie Walker, Bern Nadette Stanis, Ja’net DuBois (Photo courtesy ABC)
A lot of people are talking about you “slamming the door” on Jimmie Walker when Kimmel introduced you at the end. Can we put that controversy to rest?
[LAUGH] That was so, so funny! When I came off the stage, my sister texted me like, “Everybody’s laughing that you slammed the door in his face!” I had no concept that I had done that! This is the God’s honest truth. It must have been my character coming out a little bit, how Thelma and J.J. used to act!
It was the first time you two were back on that set.
Jimmie said to me the next day, “They told you to close the door behind you.” And that’s exactly what they said, “When you walk out, make sure you close the door.” That’s the way we used to do it when they introduced us [on the original series]. Everybody was supposed to make their own entrance. But Jimmy Kimmel said all the names together. Jimmie laughed. I laughed.
And everybody’s talking abut you guys again, 40 years later!
It turned out great! It was a great tribute to an iconic show that contributed to our society and to our culture.
How do you think Esther Rolle would have felt about the show?
I think she would have loved it!
Patti LaBelle, John Amos and Norman Lear celebrate John’s 80th birthday (Photo courtesy ABC)