Actor John Amos is perhaps best recognized for his iconic roles as the serious father on the sitcom ‘Good Times‘ and as Kunta Kinte on the acclaimed 1977 miniseries, Roots.
His fame grew during the 1970s when he was cast in a number of iconic series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Good Times. More recently he stars in the Netflix series, The Ranch.
John Amos is an African-American actor, born in Newark, New Jersey on December 27, 1939. His full name is John A. Amos Jr. Amos is the son of Annabelle P. Amos, and John Amos Sr., an auto mechanic. As a child, Amos Jr. grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, and had big dreams of making it big as a football star – He started taking up the game in high school. Amos was a fan of the New York Giants, and wanted to be as successful at them. Amos graduated from East Orange High School in 1958.
Amos continued playing football in Colorado State University, where he took up a course in sociology. After graduating, Amos further pursued his goal in playing for the NFL as a professional athlete. He signed a contract with the Denver Broncos in 1964, but did not last long because of an injury. In 1964, Amos signed a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, under their head coach, Hank Stram.
Thanks to his course, Amos got a job as a social worker at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York while still playing football on the side for both American and Canadian teams.
Amos was married three times: In 1965, he married Noel J. Mickelson – Their union lasted for 10 years. Then in 1978, he married actress Lillian Lehman. They divorced a year later. Amos is currently married to Elisabete De Sousa, and he has two children: KC and Shannon.
His life took a turn when he started working as a stand-up comedian in the Greenwich Village circuit. In 1969, Amos became a staff member on a musical variety show hosted by actress Leslie Uggams. He officially made his stage debut in 1971, appearing in Norman Is That You?, a comedy about a Jewish couple coming to terms with the fact that their son is gay. In that same year, Amos earned a Los Angeles Drama Critics nomination for Best Actor and even started his own theater company.
In 1972, he starred in the Broadway play Tough to Get Help and had begun appearing as a regular character on The Mary Tyler Moore show, portraying Gordy the Weatherman. He left the show after three seasons. Amos then took on the role of Esther Rolle’s unemployed husband, James Evans, on the Norman Lear sitcom Maude, itself a spin-off of the wildly popular CBS sitcom All in the Family.
Both Amos and Rolle’s roles were proven to be a hit with the audience, so they were given their own sitcom, Good Times, first aired in 1974. Unfortunately, major conflicts with executive producer Lear caused Amos to be fired from the set, and the show declined in ratings.
In 1977, Amos starred in the highly-acclaimed miniseries Roots, a show about a young African man’s struggles from slavery to freedom. In the show, Amos portrayed the adult Kunta Kinte, while Kinte’s younger version was played by LeVar Burton. An estimated one hundred million viewers tuned in to the finale. Roots was based after the Alex Haley novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
Amos’ other film and television roles included a guest role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Coming to America (as Cleo McDowell) and The West Wing (as Admiral Percy Fitzwallace). He currently has a recurring role on the Netflix series, The Ranch (as Ed Bishop). In 1994 he reconciled with Good Times developer Normal Lear, and portrayed former Vietnam war veteran Ernie Cumberbatch in another All in the Family spin-off sitcom, 704 Hauser. The show only lasted for one season.
At this moment, Amos’ total net worth has reached at least three million dollars. He first started off as a football player, signing up for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos, and the British Columbia Lions. His two careers have given him plenty of success.
Rumor and Controversy
Was John Amos Fired From Good Times?
While filming Good Times in the 70s, Amos got fed up with the way Norman Lear was handling the show, and led to some conflicts with the developer. He has mentioned in an interview that was actually fired from the show in 1976, after three seasons – He did not quit. Lear informed him through a phonecall that he was considered as a ‘disruptive element’ to the show.