“There are three stages in an actor's career. Who is John Amos? Get me John Amos. Get me a young John Amos.” John Amos
A tough, but affectionate, performer of TV and motion pictures, John Amos first attracted attention of TV audiences for his role of Gordy on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-1973), from which he later jointly earned a 2004 TV Land for Groundbreaking Show. The football player-turned-actor gained even more recognition and prominence as James Evans on the long-running CBS sitcom “Good Times,” which he portrayed the father from 1974 to 1976. After departing the show, Amos won acclaim and picked up his Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the adult Kunte Kinte in the groundbreaking mini-series “Roots” (1977). Decades later, he shared a 2006 TV Land's Impact Award for “Good Times” and a 2007 TV Land's Anniversary Award for “Roots.” Amos also netted an Image nomination for his scene-stealing role of Coach Sam in the NBC sitcom “In the House” (1995-1997). More recently, he is known for playing a mayor in CBS's drama “The District” (2000-2001) and Buzz in ABC's sitcom “Men in Trees” (2006-present).
As a movie actor, Amos is probably best remembered as Eddie Murphy's father in “Coming to America” (1988) and a villain in “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990). The actor's other credits include “Let's Do It Again” (1975), “A Woman Like That” (1997), “The Players Club” (1998), “The Watermelon Heist” (2003, produced by daughter Shannon), “My Baby's Daddy” (2004) and “Ascension Day” (2007). He also has a supporting role in the upcoming horror film “Hauntsville” (2007), directed and produced by son K.C Amos.
Amos is now the husband of Elisabete De Sousa-Amos, with whom he has two children. He was once married to Noel J. Mickelson and Lillian Lehman.
Childhood and Family:
John A. Amos was born on December 27, 1939, in Newark, New Jersey, to John A. Amos Sr. and Annabell. He was a sociology major at the Colorado State University in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he played college football. Prior to pursuing an acting career, he was an athlete and social worker. He played professional football in American, Canadian and Continental Leagues and was a Golden Gloves boxing champion.
John has been married three times. After divorcing Noel J. Mickelson and Lillian Lehman, he married current wife Elisabete De Sousa-Amos. Now residing in Tewksbury Township, the couple has two children together. John also has four more children from previous marriages.
A former social worker at New York's Vera Institute of Justice, professional football player and an advertising copywriter, John Amos began his entertainment career by doing stand-up comedy at New York City's Greenwich Village. After moving to Los Angeles, the New Jersey native found work on Lohman and Barkley's comedy show and was recruited as a staff writer for the CBS variety series “The Leslie Uggams Show” (1969).
Amos did not gain his first exposure to acting in front of the camera until 1970 when he was cast in the role of Gordy the weatherman in CBS' “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Unfortunately, the character was never really developed and he left the comedy show after three seasons to pick up the recurring role of Henry Evans, husband of maid Florida (played by Esther Rolle) in the CBS sitcom “Maude” (1973). In between, he had a regular role in the NBC summer sitcom “The Funny Side” (1971) and made his first film appearance as a biker in the forgettable “Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song” (1971, credited as Johnny Amos). He also costarred as Coach Sam Archer in the 1973 sport themed “The World's Greatest Athlete,” opposite Tim Conway and Jan-Michael Vincent.
After a year with the series “Maude,” Amos' character was spun-off as the lead in “Good Times,” the first network series ever created by African-Americans. Now named James, Amos brilliantly played the inveterately unemployed father for two years until 1976 when he decided to leave the show due to creative differences. His character was killed in an off-screen accident. Like Amos, Rolle, who reprised the role of his onscreen wife, also felt unhappy with the scripts and left the show in the fifth season, although she later returned for the sixth and final season.
“It was an ongoing struggle to say no, I don't want to be a part of the perpetuation of this stereotype. Despite the fact that I had a writing background, they didn't want to accept whatever ideas I had as a writer. So when I would pose arguments about J.J.'s role being too stereotypical, I was regarded as a negative factor. It ultimately reached a point where it was inflammable, I mean, spontaneous combustion could happen at any minute. They killed my character off and as God would have it, just when they told me I would never work again, I got cast in a little program called ‘Roots,’ and as they would say, the rest is history. I could have begged and they made it obvious to me that if I wanted to come back and be a good boy... but I'd rather say 'Toby be good nigger' in ‘Roots’ than say 'Toby be good nigger' on ‘Good Times.’” John Amos on his departure from “Good Times”
Amos made a strong comeback in 1977 as the adult Kunta Kinte in the landmark ABC miniseries “Roots.” The role brought the actor his Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series. However, after the success, he had difficulties finding notable roles. He starred as Officer Bill Bundy in the short lived crime series “Future Cop” in 1977 and did not get another series regular role until after seven years with the NBC cop show “Hunter” (1984), playing Captain Dolan. He went on to appear in many TV shows as a guest, including Doc Penrose in a 1987 episode of “Murder, She Wrote” and Dr. Herbert in a 1988 episode of “The Cosby Show.” Amos was also seen in TV films.
Meanwhile, on the big screen, Amos, who added “Let's Do It Again” (1975, starring Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier) to his resume, could be seen in 1980's “Touched by Love,” with Diane Lane, 1982's “The Beastmaster,” opposite Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts and Rip Torn, and 1983's “Dance of the Dwarfs.” Following a small part in the Kevin Costner vehicle “American Flyers” (1985), he eventually landed a noteworthy part as Cleo McDowell, the man hired by Eddie Murphy to profess to be his father, in the John Landis helmed “Coming to America” (1988). He again offered a convincing portrayal as the Special Forces captain who turns out to be a villain in “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990).
In 1994, Amos made his return to series TV as a regular in CBS's sitcom “704 Hauser Street,” where he portrayed Ernie Cumberbatch. Unfortunately, the series has a short life. He next received the recurring role of Fred Wilkes in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1994-1995) and supported Debbie Allen and LL Cool J in the NBC sitcom “In the House” (1995-1997), in which he nabbed an Image nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Coach Sam Wilson. He appeared in Jason Alexander's film “For Better or Worse” (1996), joined the ensemble cast of the independent film “A Woman Like That” (1997) and played a police officer in “The Players Club” (1998), directed, written by and costarring Ice Cube.
Starting in 1999, Amos became a frequent guest as Admiral Percy Fitzwallace on the TV series “West Wing,” a role he held until 2004. He costarred as Mayor Ethan Baker in the CBS police drama “The District” from 2000 to 2001 and currently portrays Buzz in the ABC comedy series “Men in Trees” (2006-present). On August 17, 2007, TV audiences could see Amos in an episode of USA Network's original drama/comedy “Psych.” The actor's more recent movie credits include “All Over Again” (2001), “The Watermelon Heist” (2003), an urban comedy directed by his son K.C Amos and produced by his daughter Shannon, “My Baby's Daddy” (2004), “Voodoo Moon” (2005) and the drama “Ascension Day” (2007).
The veteran actor is set to play Mr. Kimball in the upcoming horror film “Hauntsville” (2007).
TV Land: Anniversary Award, “Roots,” 2007
TV Land: Impact Award, “Good Times,” 2006
TV Land: Groundbreaking Show, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 2004