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Good Times Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The first American sitcom to focus on a Black two-parent family, "Good Times" is one of the most groundbreaking and fondly remembered shows of its kind in U.S. TV history. Beginning in 1974, the hugely successful series ran for six seasons. It centered around the family of Florida Evans, a supporting character from fellow '70s sitcom "Maude," which itself is based on the earlier show "All In The Family." So that means — keep up! — "Good Times" also takes the gong for first-ever spin-off of a spin-off.

Far from the superfluous offshoot from its sitcom ancestors that you might expect from so much spin-offery, "Good Times" packed a political punch while delivering plenty of laughs. Set in a fictional Chicago housing project — based on notoriously tough neighborhoods like the Cabrini-Green Homes projects shown in its opening credit sequence — the show's characters struggled through everything from street violence and corrupt authorities to financial hardship and eviction, making a social impact and genuine connection with their audience that few sitcoms achieve.

As TV Line reports, "Good Times" is set for a revival: In 2020, Netflix announced an animated series from original producer Norman Lear, plus Seth MacFarlane and Steph Curry. The original cast are well-beloved, but in the four decades since "Good Times" ended, some have sadly passed away. Here are the familiar faces that you may not know are no longer with us...

Esther Rolle died in 1998

Leading "Good Times" actress Esther Rolle, who played the show's matriarch Florida Evans, died in 1998 — just nine days after her 78th birthday. Before she passed away due to complications from diabetes, she enjoyed a long and successful screen career.

Florida was the heart and soul of the show, having originally been the housekeeper of the eponymous Maude in that series. Key to the sitcom's development and passionate about its message, Rolle fought for John Amos' father character James Evans to be included after the script originally cast her as yet another Black single mother. "I told them I couldn't compound the lie that black fathers don't care about their children," she said, as reported by Variety, "I was proud of the family life I was able to introduce to television." Rolle's activism for quality Black representation onscreen saw her awarded the NAACP Chairman's Civil Rights Leadership Award in 1990 — the first woman to receive the accolade.

Rolle's work in "Good Times" earned her a Golden Globe nomination in 1979, and she later won an Emmy for her supporting role in the World War II drama "Summer Of My German Soldier." You may have spotted her in the Academy Award-winning "Driving Miss Daisy," too — and on top of her screen career, she released a funk and soul album, "Garden Of My Mind," in 1975. With her last film, "Train Ride," shot in 1998 and posthumously released in 2000, the dedicated performer kept working right until the end.

Ja'net Dubois died in 2020

Jeannette Dubois — or Ja'net DuBois as she was professionally known — played local gossip and friend of the Evans family Willona Woods on "Good Times." She died of natural causes in 2020 after a long and successful 81 years.

Taking over as the sitcom's star in 1977's fifth season, when Esther Rolle temporarily left before returning for the sixth and final season, DuBois was a permanent fixture of "Good Times" from beginning to end. Even before appearing alongside the Evans family, she blazed the trail for Black representation in '70s soap opera "Love Of Life," her character Loretta Allen being among the first Black women to appear regularly in a daytime television series.

Like her "Good Times" co-star Esther Rolle, DuBois also had musical success. If you're a fan of "The Jeffersons" — sister sitcom to "Good Times" from the same producer, Norman Lear — you've probably heard her impressive vocals on its theme song "Movin' On Up," which she also co-wrote. With a career that began in the showbiz haven of 1960s Broadway, her many talents are hardly surprising.

Praised as "a community activist" by The Chicago Crusader, she set up the DuBois Academy of Theater Arts and Sciences for teenagers in Long Island, New York, as well as the DuBois Care Foundation to support youth after-school programs. A strong voice for Black representation in the arts, she co-founded Los Angeles' Pan African Film & Arts Festival in 1992 — another valuable project cementing her lasting legacy.

Albert Reed Jr. died in 1986

Having appeared on "Good Times" as dubious and disreputable local politician Fred C. Davis, Albert Reed Jr. died aged 76 in 1986 — the first of the sitcom's cast to pass away. A parody of corrupt politics, Davis borrowed catchphrases from maligned and recently resigned President Nixon — and though loathed by his fellow characters, Reed's performance was loved by audiences.

Ironically, Reed was a real-life law enforcement officer as well as an actor — though we hope his tactics were more above-board than his character's. As Fandom notes, his "Good Times" role wasn't the only one that saw art imitate life. In 1970, he appeared in the film "Airport" while also working at L.A. International Airport, where he retired with the rank of chief of security.

His working life split between screen star and security guard, Reed took on few film roles — his other most notable performance being 1972's "Where Does It Hurt?." He's remembered for television roles, including his appearances as Dr. Joshua Barnes in the children's series "The Secrets of Isis" and as supporting characters in "Good Times" sitcom contemporaries "The Jeffersons" and "Sanford and Son."