Mike Evans almost played J.J. in ''Good Times'' — but the producers refused because of ''All in the Family''

In addition to creating the series, Evans was originally supposed to be one of the stars of Good Times.

If you're a good enough actor, one good role will lead to an even better role, and so on. But for Mike Evans, his acting ability in a previous role cost him a future one.

You might know that, in addition to playing Lionel Jefferson on All in the Family, Evans is also responsible for co-creating the show Good Times. Like All in the Family before it, Good Times was a family-centric sitcom, except it focused on Florida and James Evans and their children.

In the wild, loopy timeline that is the Norman Lear Universe, Good Times is technically related to All in the Family somehow; The series began as a spinoff of the series Maude, a character that got her own spinoff because of her warm welcome by fans during her appearance as Cousin Maude in All in the Family.

Evans created the series with writer Eric Monte and actually wrote for the series as well. But originally, he had much bigger plans for the series. According to an interview with The Tennessean, Evans was hoping to play the role of J.J. Evans, but the producers refused, with the article stating that they argued: "Mike had already built up a solid identity as Lionel." The role was eventually given to Jimmie Walker instead.

Plenty of actors can develop identities as multiple characters, so why the producers refused to let Evans try might forever remain a mystery. Moreover, Evans revealed later in an interview with the Hartford Courant that the character of J.J. was based on him as a child. He said, "It was me as a kid — except he [Walker] is tall and skinny. I was short and fat, and when you're built like that as a kid you're either ostracized completely, or you talk a lot to overcome any lack of confidence."

Still, the actor was eventually able to get the best of both worlds when The Jeffersons were given their series, and Evans was able to reprise his role as Lionel Jefferson, centerstage.

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17 Comments

BrianThetubewatcher 18 days ago
Too bad Mike Evan’s didn’t get the part. Not only was he a vastly better actor than Walker, the show would not have been turned into Jimmy Walker’s personal stand up comedy.
myewing 24 days ago
Jerry Seinfeld played Jerry Seinfeld....
WordsmithWorks 24 days ago
I'm sure Esther Rolle and John Amos would have preferred a lower key JJ, which is how I imagine Evans would have played him. Although t would have been funny if he was cast as the younger brother. I wonder how many actors have portrayed a fictional character with the same first and last name as themselves.
I guess you can include Fred Sanford on that list. “Redd Foxx” is a stage name so when he got his own sitcom his fictional identity is named for his real one. That he no longer used in real life! Talk about the long way round back to your own name!
justjeff BobbyTony 24 days ago
...and if you've ever watched the Cary Grant version of "The Front Page" (known as "His Girl Friday", Cary makes a reference to a character named Archie Leach... Archibald Leach was his given name...

To stretch this name game a bit, the characters of Sheldon and Leonard on "The Big Bang Theory" were a nod to actor/comedian/producer Sheldon Leonard!
Lin208lin BobbyTony 24 days ago
Redd Foxx's real name was John Sanford. Fred Sanford was his brother's name. He told the audience this on the Flip Wilson show.
daDoctah WordsmithWorks 20 days ago
Do you count Neil Patrick Harris in the "Harold & Kumar" movies?
cperrynaples 24 days ago
Fun facts: Amos was on AITF and on Maude his name was Henry NOT James! Honestly, i can't picture Evans saying "Dy-no-mite!"
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justjeff Sincitylex 23 days ago
Live and learn...
OnlyPaul57 cperrynaples 21 days ago
I've looked on Imdb and cannot find John Amos on AITF only on Maude three times.
Evanses, Jeffersons, Sanfords, Amoses - now I’m really confused. 🫤
Evans on First, Jefferson on Second, Sanford on Third and Amos in the Outfield!
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