When many people think about the most memorable moments in black television history, the first storyline to pop into their minds is when Florida Evans read a letter informing her that her husband, James Evans, had died.
And of course there’s the scene when Florida had her breakdown in the kitchen, when she could no longer play strong in her time of mourning. Florida’s “Damn, damn, damn” is still relevant in today’s pop culture and memes.
What many don’t realize is that John Amos was just about as shocked as Florida when he learned that he was no longer on the show. Back then, Amos was vocal about his issues with the show, and it seemed to have rubbed the show’s creator, Norman Lear, the wrong way.
In an interview with the American Archive of Television, Amos discussed why he received the boot from the show: “I felt that with two other younger children, one of whom aspired to become a Supreme Court justice—that would be Ralph Carter, or Michael—and the other, BernNadette Stanis … she aspired to become a surgeon. And the differences I had with the producers of the show … I felt too much emphasis was being put on J.J. and his chicken hat and saying ‘dy-no-mite’ every third page, when just as much emphasis and mileage could have been gotten out of my other two children … ,” Amos stated.
So apparently, from Amos’ standpoint, there was too much shucking and jiving on the show, and he didn’t want to tolerate it any more. He also states that he “wasn’t the most diplomatic guy” back then and producers got tired of having their “lives threatened over jokes.”
Just as Florida shockingly received notice that her husband had died, so, too, Amos received a call out of the blue that his character was no longer needed. Amos stated that during the show’s hiatus, Lear called him.
“Big John, I got some good news and some bad news. What do you want to hear first?” Amos said Lear asked him.
“Hey, it’s your dime, you made the call,” Amos replied.
It was then that Lear told him that they were being picked up for another season, which wasn’t a surprise to Amos.
“You want the bad news?” Lear asked.
“Sure, how bad can it be?” Amos asked.
“You won’t be with us,” Lear responded.
Amos said he was shocked but not surprised, since he had already been labeled a “disruptive element.”
When asked by Lear if he wanted to say something, he simply said no and hung up.
Once Amos left the show, there was definitely a missing element. Personally, even while watching repeats when I was younger, I seem to remember asking myself what happened with James Evans, and eventually I stopped watching altogether.
Amos was a force to be reckoned with on the show, and apparently, because of his personality and the fact that he realized the show was making a coonery out of the family, he couldn’t be a part of it any more. He stuck to his guns, and it eventually got him fired.