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The Real Reason Norman Lear Killed Off James Evans On Good Times

Family patriarch James Evans (John Amos) is a key cast member on the late Norman Lear's sitcom "Good Times" during its first three seasons. Then, in the Season 4 premiere, the Evans family finds out that James died suddenly in a car accident. His character is killed unceremoniously off-screen, pretty clearly indicating Amos' sudden departure from the "Good Times" cast.

Disagreements between Lear and Amos arose for two principal reasons. On one hand, as Amos details in an interview conducted by the Television Academy Foundation available on its YouTube channel, he felt that the show focused too heavily on a comic relief character named J.J. (Jimmie Walker), to the extent that more serious character arcs suffered as a result.

Furthermore, Amos told an interviewer for the YouTube channel VladTV that his attempts at providing input to the show's all white writer's room eventually ballooned into irreconcilable discord between him and Lear. "I felt like I knew more about what a Black family should be and how a Black father would act than our writers, none of whom were Black," he said. "It reached a point where I wasn't very tactful in my complaints about the script."

While Lear allowed him and some of his co-stars to share their own input, what Amos describes as his own brash style of feedback hit a point Lear found excessive. As he recounts, he was let go for acting in a way Lear felt was threatening to the show's writing staff.

Norman Lear and John Amos maintained a working relationship

Norman Lear himself discusses John Amos' "Good Times" exit in his memoir "Even This I Get to Experience," a lengthy excerpt of which The Hollywood Reporter published. "By the end of the third season, John Amos was so glum and dispirited that it seemed impossible to go on, and we decided to write him out of the show," Lear wrote in his own account of the time the two of them stopped seeing eye-to-eye creatively.

Meanwhile, in his VladTV interview, Amos recounted how the unfortunate nature of his "Good Times" departure did not, in fact, ruin his working relationship with Lear. "He realized after a fashion that I was right about some things — I wasn't the most diplomatic guy in terms of expressing my grievances — but he allowed that. And he and I established a relationship," Amos said.

Seemingly as a sort of mutual olive branch, Amos returned to work with Lear on the second edition of "Live in Front of a Studio Audience," which recreates classic episodes of "Good Times" and what is arguably Lear's number one TV show "All in the Family." Amos, in fact, is the only original cast member to appear in this reprisal, albeit portraying a character other than James Evans. So, even if Amos may not have left "Good Times" on altogether good terms, he and Lear maintained respect for one another and even continued to collaborate.