Stepping into the spotlight for ABC’s Live In Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times holiday special on Wednesday night is comedian Tiffany Haddish, who is taking on the role of Willona Woods from Good Times, a character originally portrayed by actress Ja’Net Dubois on the 1970s series.
Executive produced by Norman Lear, along with Jimmy Kimmel, Brent Miller, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux and Kerry Washington, the latter of whom played Helen Willis in The Jeffersons portion of Live in Front of a Studio Audience last year, this new staging is bringing back Good Times for the first time.
Created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, Lear helped develop the series which originally premiered on CBS in 1974, it was a spin-off from the hit series, Maude, and was the first mainstream TV series to feature a two-parent African American household. Good Times followed the lives of a poor Chicago couple, Florida (Esther Rolle) and James Evans (John Amos), as they raised their kids, JJ (Jimmie Walker), Thelma (BernNadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter), and along with Sanford and Sons and The Jeffersons, was one of the highest rated TV series in its first few years.
Joining Haddish in ABC’s live re-staging, is two-time Golden Globe nominee Andre Braugher, who will play the Evans’ family patriarch, James Evans, and Academy Award winner Viola Davis as Evans’ wife Florida, Playing their three children will be former SNL cast member Jay Pharoah as JJ, This Is Us star Asante Blackk as Michael, and Corinne Foxx, Jamie Foxx’s real-life daughter, as Thelma.
It will be exciting to see how Haddish, 40, interprets the famously sassy character of Willona Woods. While her hilarious stand-up special, Black Mitzvah, was recently released on Netflix to high critical praise, she has some big shoes to fill when it comes to stepping into the role that DuBois made famous.
However, the Girls Trip star is not nervous, only nostalgic. She told Extra TV, “It’s gonna be a good time. It’s one of the shows I grew up watching
Is Ja’Net Dubois, Who Originally Played Willona Woods, Still Alive?
Dubois, the multi-talented actor, singer, and dancer celebrated her 74th birthday in August, and in addition her run on Good Times, she both composed and sang the theme song, “Movin’ On Up,” for Norman Lear’s other popular sitcom, The Jeffersons.
After playing Willona Woods, Dubois continued on to have an illustrious career in theatre and on screen. She’s received two Emmys for voice-over work, and in 1969, Dubois won a Peabody Award for the CBS children’s movie, J.T..
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Dubois worked non-stop as a TV guest on dozens of shows. As a series regular, she played Grandma Ellington on The Wayans Bros., and Mrs. Avery on The PJs. With nearly 70 credits to her name, the last film Dubois worked was the 2016 movie, She’s Got a Plan.