John Amos

John Amos Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: December 27, 1939

Age: 84 years old

Birth Place: Newark, New Jersey

An imposing veteran actor of stage and screen, John Amos earned his greatest claim to fame as the hardworking but prideful James Evans, Sr. on the hit Norman Lear sitcom "Good Times" (CBS, 1974-79). Though only on the series for its first three seasons - the actor clashed repeatedly with producers and eventually departed - Amos earned a spot in the cultural zeitgeist with what was hailed as one of the most realistic portrayals of an African-American father at the time. In fact, his characterization set the template for other black actors to follow, most notably Bill Cosby in the next decade. Meanwhile, Amos went on to shine in a variety of projects that included the landmark miniseries "Roots" (ABC, 1977), a recurring role as a police captain on the first season of the drama "Hunter" (NBC, 1984-1991), and another recurring role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006). Of course, he had a number of memorable big screen performances, playing a social climbing restaurateur in "Coming to America" (1988) and a rare villain in "Die Hard 2" (1990). Whether playing military commanders, curmudgeonly father figures or even the occasional terrorist, Amos always brought authority and gravitas to every project in which he appeared.

Born John A. Amos, Jr. on Dec. 27, 1939 in Newark, NJ, Amos' pre-acting life was an athletic one; according to varying sources, he was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, and after graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in sociology, he played semi-professional football in the United States and Canada. He also worked as a social worker in New York and in advertising prior to trying his hand at stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village. A job as a staff writer on Leslie Uggams' variety series (CBS, 1969) brought him to Los Angeles, where he made also his stage debut in a 1971 production of the comedy "Norman, Is That You?" which earned a Drama Critics nomination. Later, he formed his own theater company and took "Norman" on the road.

Amos began popping up in small roles on television and in films in 1970. Among his earliest credits were in Melvin Van Peebles' legendary independent film "Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song" (1970) and in the cult road movie "Vanishing Point" (1971). He made his television debut in 1970 as Gordy Howard, the amiable weatherman, on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77), before landing a recurring role on Norman Lear's controversial sitcom "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78), starring as Henry Evans, husband to Maude's cleaning lady, Florida Evans (Esther Rolle). The characters were given their own Lear sitcom, "Good Times," in 1974, where Evans was renamed James. The first sitcom to focus solely on an African-American family, "Good Times" was praised in its early seasons for its honest approach to the financial and social challenges facing low-income families in the 1970s. It would go on to be nominated for a Humanitas Award in 1975, and viewers responded by ushering the show to No. 17 in the ratings. Amos, in particular, received considerable praise for his accurate and honest portrayal of Evans, a stern but proud father who struggled mightily with his inability to land regular work.

But by 1976, the show's focus had shifted to its breakout star, comedian Jimmie Walker, with whom Amos had co-starred in the Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby comedy "Let's Do It Again" (1975). His J.J. had become something of a pop culture icon, thanks to his broad performance and "Dy-No-MITE!" catch phrase. Amos was vocal about his dismay in this sea change, and frequently clashed with the producers and script writers over what he perceived as stereotypical characterizations. By 1976, he had tired of the struggle to inject dignity into the program, and left the show. His departure was explained away as a search for regular work in Alaska and the character's fate was sealed in the opening episodes of the 1976-77 season when Florida received word that he had been killed in a car accident.

Though some viewed Amos' exit as a hasty one, the actor had landed a substantial role in what would be one of the most influential television miniseries of all time: as the adult Kunta Kinte in "Roots" (1977). Amos' natural gravitas resonated in the difficult role, and he received an Emmy nomination in 1977 for his efforts. Unfortunately, he was unable to parlay this success into substantial roles. By 1977, he was back on television in "Future Cop" (ABC, 1977), a sitcom about a police officer who partners with a robot. He worked steadily through the 1980s and early 1990s, mostly in guest shots for episodic series like "The A-Team" (NBC, 1983-87). There were also a few notable movie roles; a doctor in "American Flyers" (1985) with Kevin Costner and a nice comic turn in "Coming to America" (1989), but his most rewarding work during this period came on stage. He earned an NAACP Award for the 1985 play "Split Second" and trod the boards in New York and London in productions of Shakespeare and August Wilson's "Fences, among other shows. In 1990, he launched a one-man show, "Halley's Comet," in which he played an 87-year-old man who recounted his life's experiences. The show toured regularly for the next two decades.

Amos' profile raised in the early 1990s with notable supporting turns in major features like "Lock Up" (1989) and "Die Hard 2" (1990). He also returned to television as a series regular on "704 Hauser" (CBS, 1994), a Norman Lear sitcom which put a black family in the famous residence once occupied by Archie Bunker. Despite its spirited revival of the social and class conflict honed to perfection by "All in the Family" (CBS, 1971-79) - the show pitted Democrat Amos against his conservative son - the series was not a success. But Amos soon found consistent work in recurring roles for other series, including "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (NBC, 1990-96) and "In the House" (NBC, 1995-99), which netted him an Image Award nomination in 1996. In 1999, he played Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on "The West Wing" until 2004, when his character was killed by a roadside bomb on the West Bank of Gaza in Israel.

In 2000, Amos had a recurring role as the Mayor on the Craig T. Nelson drama, "The District" (CBS, 2000-04). He also logged time as a series regular on the short-lived "All About the Andersons" (The WB, 2003-04) as the stern father of comic Anthony Anderson, who has returned to live with his parents while raising his own son. Amos continued to pop up in independent features during this period; most notably 2003's "The Watermelon Heist," an independent feature directed by his son, K.C. Amos, and produced by his daughter, Shannon. In 2006, Amos joined the cast of "Men in Trees," a quirky romantic comedy which cast him as an Alaska bush pilot with a secret. He also turned up on the USA Network comedy "Psych" (2006-14) as the uncle of Dule Hill. Meanwhile, his previous work reaped awards from TV Land, which honored him for his participation in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Roots" and "Good Times" in 2006 and 2007. Meanwhile, Amos logged episodes of "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09) and "Royal Pains" (USA Network, 2009-16), while also recurring on "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003-15) during season seven as Chelsea's father. After appearing as himself in a 2010 episode of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-13), Amos was a guest star on "Lie to Me" (Fox, 2009-11) before returning to film with a small supporting role in "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" (2012).

Credits

The Last Rifleman

Actor
Lincoln Adams
Movie
2023

Block PartyStream

Actor
Dennis
Movie
2022

Coming 2 AmericaStream

Actor
Cleo McDowell
Movie
2021
49%

Because of Charley

Actor
Grandpa
Movie
2021

Christmas in Miami

Actor
Movie
2021

All About All in the Family and The Jeffersons

Guest
Show
2019

Christmas Belles

Actor
Pop Pop
Movie
2019

The Truth About Santa Claus

Actor
Movie
2019

Sister Circle

Guest
Talk
2017

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of YouStream

Self
Movie
2016
86%

Mary Tyler Moore: A Celebration

Actor
Show
2015

The SeventiesStream

Self
Docuseries
2015

Bad Ass 3: Bad Asses on the BayouStream

Actor
Earl
Movie
2015

Tamales and Gumbo

Actor
The Patron
Movie
2015

Act of Faith

Actor
Movie
2014

AltheaStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2014

American Lowrider

Actor
Slick
Movie
2013

NYC 22

Guest Star
Show
2012

Zombie Hamlet

Actor
Edgar Mortimer
Movie
2012

Zombie Hamlet

Producer
Movie
2012

Tyler Perry’s Madea's Witness ProtectionStream

Actor
Pastor Nelson
Movie
2012
19%

Mercy for Angels

Actor
God
Show
2011

Your Pretty Face is Going to HellStream

Guest Star
Series
2011

The Mo'Nique Show

Guest
Show
2009

Royal PainsStream

Guest Star
Harrison Phillips
Series
2009

Lie to MeStream

Guest Star
Jim Weaver
Series
2009

The Wendy Williams Show

Guest
Talk
2008

30 RockStream

Guest Star
John Amos
Series
2006
78%

Men in Trees

Actor
Buzz Washington
Series
2006
56%

Dr. Dolittle 3

Actor
Jud Jones
Movie
2006

My Name Is EarlStream

Guest Star
Joe
Series
2005
82%

Boj S Tenju

Actor
Elaydzha
Movie
2005

Voodoo Moon

Actor
Dutch
Movie
2005

My Baby's DaddyStream

Actor
Uncle Virgil
Movie
2004
6%

Two and a Half MenStream

Guest Star
Ed
Series
2003
65%

All About the Andersons

Actor
Joe Anderson
Show
2003

The Watermelon Heist

Actor
Old Man Amos
Movie
2003

The District

Guest Star
Series
2000

Something to Sing About

Actor
Rev. Washington
Movie
2000

Disappearing Acts

Actor
Mr. Swift
Movie
2000

All Over Again

Actor
Coach Zeller
Movie
2000

The West WingStream

Actor
Percy Fitzwallace
Series
1999
81%

The West WingStream

Guest Star
Percy Fitzwallace
Series
1999
81%

The Players ClubStream

Actor
Freeman
Movie
1998
31%

King of the HillStream

Guest Voice
Glen Johnson
Series
1997

A Woman Like That

Actor
Movie
1997

The Rockford Files: Asesinatos y Fechorías

Actor
Booker Hutch
Movie
1997

The Rockford Files: Murder and Misdemeanors

Actor
Booker Hutch
Movie
1997

Walker, Texas Ranger: Sons of Thunder

Actor
Pastor Roscoe Jones
Movie
1997

The Chris Rock ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1996

For Better or Worse

Actor
Gray
Movie
1996

In the HouseStream

Actor
Series
1995

In the HouseStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

The Outer LimitsStream

Guest Star
Peter 'Yas' Yastrzemski
Series
1995

Holograma

Actor
Movie
1995

Hologram Man

Actor
Wes Strickland
Movie
1995

Touched by an AngelStream

Guest Star
Series
1994

Extra

Guest
News
1994

704 Hauser

Actor
Ernie Cumberbatch
Series
1994

Walker, Texas RangerStream

Guest Star
Series
1993

Night Trap

Actor
Capt. Hodges
Movie
1993

MartinStream

Guest Star
Series
1992

Mac

Actor
Nat
Movie
1992

RicochetStream

Actor
Reverend Styles
Movie
1991
74%

The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirStream

Guest Star
Series
1990

Die Hard 2Stream

Actor
Maj. Grant
Movie
1990
70%

Lock Up

Actor
Captain Meissner
Movie
1989

Coming to AmericaStream

Actor
Cleo McDowell
Movie
1988
73%

Vamos a América

Actor
Movie
1988

Bonanza: The Next Generation

Actor
Mr. Mack
Movie
1988

American Flyers

Actor
Dr. Conrad
Movie
1985

HunterStream

Guest Star
Captain Dolan
Series
1984

The Cosby ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1984

Dance of the Dwarfs

Actor
Esteban
Movie
1983

The BeastmasterStream

Actor
Seth
Movie
1982
80%

Touched by Love

Actor
Tony
Movie
1980

Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story

Actor
Bumpy Johnson
Movie
1980

Trapper John, M.D.

Guest Star
Series
1979

20/20Stream

Guest
News
1978

Cops and Robin

Actor
Officer Bill Bundy
Movie
1978

RootsStream

Actor
Older Kunta Kinte / Toby
Miniseries
1977
76%

Future CopStream

Actor
Officer Bill Bundy
Series
1976

Future Cop

Actor
Officer Bill Bundy
Movie
1976

Let's Do It AgainStream

Actor
Kansas City Mack
Movie
1975
60%

Good TimesStream

Actor
James Evans
Series
1974

El Mejor Atleta del Mundo

Actor
Movie
1973

The World's Greatest Athlete

Actor
Coach Sam Archer
Movie
1973

Nanou fils de la jungle

Actor
Movie
1973

MaudeStream

Actor
Henry Evans
Series
1972

Sanford & SonStream

Guest Star
Series
1972

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

Guest Star
Show
1971

The Funny Side

Actor
Minority Husband
Show
1971

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Actor
Biker
Movie
1971

The Mary Tyler Moore ShowStream

Guest Star
Gordy Howard
Series
1970

Love, American Style

Actor
Bell Captain
Series
1969

Today

Guest
News
1952

News aboutJohn Amos