The Everett Collection

Before landing her role on Good Times Bern Nadette Stanis wanted to be a dancer

Bern Nadette Stanis, who played the role of Thelma Evans, was the perfect 16-year-old on Good Times, but here's the thing: She was actually a 20-year-old playing the part of a teen.

The suddenness with which she won her Good Times role took her out of her classes at the Juilliard School of Music. At the time, she was looking for a summer job to help pay her tuition; little did she know that this summer job would change her entire life.

Norman Lear and Tandem Productions brought her to Hollywood on a one-way plane ticket, and just like that, she had the role.

"I wasn't ready to leave school," Stanis said in a 1975 interview with The Gaffney Ledger. "They gave me a week to make up my mind. I decided I might as well work at being a performer instead of studying to be one. So here I am."

According to the interview, at Juilliard Stanis was studying to become a singer and dancer — something Thelma Evans couldn't do. Her dream of becoming a dancer was put on pause for Good Times. Once she had the role of Thelma, she knew it was too good to give up.

"I'm going to stay with the show as long as the show is with me," Stanis said. "You know what I mean?"

According to another 1976 interview with The Journal News, Stanis said she never had the opportunity to incorporate her singing and dancing skills into the series, but said she had hoped to show off her moves elsewhere. 

"I'd like to dance and sing," Stanis said. "By the time I am 30, I will have done all those things. I hope I won't be bored, but then I'll start having kids, and I won't be bored. By 30, I should be finished with all of the things I wanted to do as a person."

We don't have a crystal ball, but something tells us she was able to accomplish this goal, especially considering the fame she received for her role as Thelma. Until then, Stanis did her best to play the role on Good Times and created a "second family" onset.

"I'm learning a lot about being a comedian," Stanis said. "I like being the straight person because it allows me to act more than telling a joke. I don't really mind because it's a learning process, my first one, and it's cool for me."

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