Jimmie Walker Said He Never Spoke to These "Good Times" Co-Stars
"We were never friends. We never talked," the J.J. actor once said.
The members of the Evans family on Good Times all had very different personalities, but they always came together to make it through tough situations. In real life, however, the stars of the 1970s sitcom weren't as tight as they appeared onscreen. Jimmie Walker, who played breakout character J.J., has said that, when it came to two other members of the main cast, he barely knew anything about them, they "never talked," and they were "never friends."
Walker, now 75, starred on the series for all six of its seasons, from 1974 to 1979, as the eldest Evans child. J.J. was a painter, obsessed with women, and always saying his catchphrase "dy-no-mite!" He also frequently annoyed his family members, including younger brother Michael (Ralph Carter), sister Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis), and parents Florida (Esther Rolle) and James (John Amos). But when the cameras weren't rolling, that familial bond apparently wasn't there. Read on to see what Walker has had to say about that tension over the years.
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Walker and two other cast members didn't speak when the cameras weren't rolling.
In an interview with the Television Academy in 2017, Walker said that he didn't speak to Rolle or Amos when they weren't on set.
"I will honestly say, I don't remember ever speaking a word to Esther the whole time she was there," Walker said. Rolle, who died in 1998, appeared on the first four seasons of the show, skipped Season 5, and returned for the final season.
"I think the same basically goes for John [Amos]," Walker continued. "We talk more now, a little bit, but very, very little. We were never friends. We never talked. If you said at that time, 'Call Esther and ask her about…' I wouldn't even have her number. I couldn't have called John. I wouldn't have had his number. We never spoke to each other. Only on the set."
Rolle thought Walker's character perpetuated harmful stereotypes.
Walker didn't explain exactly why he didn't become close with Rolle and Amos, but it is well-documented that both co-stars had strong feelings about J.J. When the show was still airing, Ebony published a story about issues between the cast and production, particularly when it came to how their Black characters were portrayed. Rolle took issue with J.J.'s comedic role becoming larger and larger while the other Evans children's parts grew smaller.
"He's 18 and he doesn't work. He can't read and write. He doesn't think," Rolle said of J.J. "The show didn't start out to be that. [Ralph Carter's character] Michael's role … of a bright, thinking child has been subtly reduced … I resent the imagery that says to Black kids that you can make it by standing on the corner saying, 'Dy-no-mite!'"
Amos also wasn't a fan of the character.
Amos was let go from the show after the third season due to a dispute with production over money and other issues, according to Ebony. Like Rolle, he also had a problem with J.J.
"They chose to go for the obvious and the comedic. It started to dissipate into something I wasn't terribly proud of," Amos told Vulture in 2015. "I thought there was a little too much buffoonery. And it wasn't a matter of being jealous of [Jimmie Walker]. I love comedians; I love anyone who could make somebody laugh. But by the same token, I had these other two children in the family, and I felt it was doing a disservice to them and to the image of young people to say, 'You guys don't really matter. We're more interested in seeing J.J. with a chicken hat on.' At least that's the way I saw it."
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Walker respected Rolle and Amos as actors.
In his interview with the Television Academy, Walker praised his TV parents as actors.
"They are all very good actors, I don't take anything away from their talent," he said. "Their talent is tremendous." Asked if he enjoyed performing with them, he said, "I don't think 'enjoy' is the word. I think I appreciated their talents. John is a great actor … I think it was just this show, this situation, that was against anything and everything that he believed in."
Walker continued, "He was tremendous in Roots, he was tremendous in [The] West Wing. If he would have had that same attitude with us, I think we would have been in much better shape."
Walker thinks the show could've run longer.
Walker posited that the show might have continued on for more seasons if the cast members were on the same page.
"We ran through tremendous adversity for four and a half years, whatever it was," he said. "If we had had any kind of like, love whatever, I don't know how long we could have gone. I think that they killed the goose that laid the golden egg."
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The former castmates reunited decades later.
In 2014, in his own interview with the Television Academy, Amos talked about reuniting with Walker at an event for fans.
"Recently, we had our second reunion, and there was a big autograph show in Parsippany, New Jersey," he said. "And it was the first time in 40 years that Jimmy, Ralph Carter, who played my youngest son Michael, Bern Nadette Stanis was there … It was wonderful after all those years, 40 years of working with that family to be reunited with them it was a good feeling."
Amos, now 82, also said of working on Good Times, "Sure, we had creative differences as all cast members do about every project you're involved in, but nothing that defeated the purpose of the show. Still turned out to be a funny show."
The surviving cast members also reunited for a Live in Front of a Studio Audience special for Good Times in 2019. While Amos was part of the episode reenactment, Walker, Stanis, and Ja'Net DuBois, who played Willona, were there as special guests.