Esther Rolle had an issue with J.J. Evans, not Jimmie Walker
Being on a groundbreaking show in the '70s can positively impact the relationship between production, staff and actors. However, it can also cause a few issues. Esther Rolle played the maid on Maude, another Norman Lear production, before her character could shine in a new light on Good Times. The role, Florida Evans, became one of fans' favorite TV moms.
Yet it's no secret that Esther Rolle and John Amos (who played James Evans) left the series because Jimmie Walker's character, J.J. Evans, became the focal point. After they departed, in separate seasons, rumors in the media began swirling around that the actress wasn't fond of Walker.
In an interview with The Greenville News in 1978, Rolle set matters straight. "I have no gripes against Jimmie Walker," she began. "I have gripes against J.J., he's an idiot."
If you've never watched an episode of Good Times, you might consider "idiot" a harsh word to describe a character, but writers did get a little out of hand with J.J.'s phrases, attire and dance moves. At one point, the series went from being centered around the Evans family to the outrageous adventures of J.J.
"I dislike some of the foolishness of J.J., but Jimmie Walker is an ambitious young man whom I have respect for. I wouldn't go out with him socially, but we're just not the same type [of] people."
Prior to this interview, Rolle spoke with writer Gary Deeb about her departure from the series, and when the article was released, the tone was very harsh. According to the actress, the nationally syndicated columnist quoted her but slammed Jimmie Walker simultaneously—which she disagreed with.
"Many people who read that article didn't separate what I said from what Deeb said. I thought he was a little harsh on Jimmie. I could never be that harsh on another person," Rolle added.
She (and her character) even returned during the final season of Good Times, and there were no hard feelings between her and her castmates. "My cast welcomed me back with open arms. I think they realized that they needed me."
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