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Amos, John

John Amos

1941—

Actor, producer, director

Actor John Amos will forever be associated with the miniseries Roots, in which he portrayed a proud African man sold into slavery and subjected to unspeakable cruelties. However, Amos is just as comfortable with comedy, and his powerful build and stern but wry expression suit him for a variety of character roles. Amos's break into stardom came with the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the early 1970s, and for most of that decade he worked in a string of situation comedies, including the highly popular Good Times. After nearly a decade focusing on film and theater work, Amos returned to the small screen in the 1990s, taking both starring and supporting roles in such series as 704 Hauser Street, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The West Wing, and Men in Trees.

Though Amos's fame comes from his work in television, he has also had a diverse career away from the small screen. Amos has played both dramatic and comedic roles in a string of feature films. Since 1990, Amos has been performing, producing, directing, and acting in his one-man show, Halley's Comet. He founded a film production studio, Colored Wind Productions, to give his son the opportunity to direct his first film, The Watermelon Heist, in 2003. Perhaps most meaningfully, in 1999 Amos founded the Halley's Comet Foundation, a charitable organization that "is committed to making a positive and long-lasting impact on today's youth by exposing them to learning the challenges and culture of the sea," according to its mission statement.

Avoided Youthful Troubles

Amos was born in 1941 and raised in Newark, New Jersey, the only son of an auto mechanic. He was a rebellious youngster, especially after his parents divorced. "I got in a lot of trouble as a kid and as a young man," he recalled in the Washington Post. "I never hurt another human being, but I took things that didn't belong to me. I was a candidate for prison, a very good candidate." More than once, Amos's mother—who had sole responsibility for him and his sister—was forced to bail her son out of jail. She finally informed Amos that she would no longer be humiliated by his behavior—he was on his own. "I straightened up," the actor said. "The idea of losing your last safety net, it scared the hell out of me more than any incarceration in any institution ever could."

Scrapes with the law behind him, Amos plunged into sports. In high school, he worked on his skills as a football player and was good enough to earn an athletic scholarship to Colorado State University. There he studied social work in preparation for a career helping others in the black community. After leaving Colorado State he returned east to New York City, where he served briefly as a public defender trying to get bail reductions for people who were incarcerated while awaiting trial. That job proved terribly disillusioning; Amos became convinced that the criminal justice system in New York was biased against black males. A different sort of work beckoned him, and he decided to give it a try.

Though many young boys dream of playing professional football, few ever achieve that goal. Amos was invited to try out for the Kansas City Chiefs, who signed and then cut him. When the Denver Broncos did the same thing, Amos enrolled in a training program that would prepare him to manage a McDonald's franchise. He then heard from several semi-pro football teams as well as the Canadian Football League. He spent three years in the American, Continental, and Canadian football leagues, including a brief stint with the British Columbia Lions. When the Lions also dropped him, Amos gave up on football. "I said to myself, ‘John, you're getting a little long in the tooth to be going to [football] tryouts,’" the actor remarked in the Washington Post. "My daughter was then about a year and a half old, and I knew I was going to have to make a life's decision."

Turned to Show Business

Having performed as a stand-up comic in British Columbia, Amos decided to take a chance on a career in show business, figuring he could at least write for other people if he could not break in himself. Hollywood proved a tough arena for the former football player. "I'd go in when I first started in the business, trying to get a job as a writer, and they'd see a black guy with a 19-inch neck," Amos told Newsday. Once, he was informed that he could not possibly know anything about comedy. Amos refused to give up, though, and in the late 1960s he was hired as a writer-performer for the Lohman and Barkley Show, a cult classic in Los Angeles that also launched the career of director Barry Levinson.

The big break for Amos came in 1970, when he was cast as weatherman Gordy Howard on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. The role was small and intermittent, but it gave Amos the kind of exposure he needed to secure other, more meaningful parts elsewhere. He made his stage debut in 1971, in Norman, Is That You?, a drama that earned him a best actor nomination from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. He also found better stand-up work as a regular on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) series The Funny Side. The "black guy with a 19-inch neck" was well on his way to stardom.

At a Glance …

Born on December 27, 1941 (some sources say 1939), in Newark, NJ; son of John A. (a mechanic) and Annabelle P. Amos; married Noel J. Mickelson (divorced); married Lillian Lehman (divorced); married Elisabete De Sousa; children: Shannon Patrice (daughter), K. C. (son). Education: Attended Colorado State University and Long Beach City College.

Career : Professional football player, 1962-65; actor, producer, director, writer, c. 1965-.

Awards : Los Angeles Drama Critics Award nomination, 1971, for Norman, Is That You?; Emmy Award nomination for best actor, 1977, for Roots; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award nomination for best actor, 1985, for Split Second; Image Award for supporting actor in a comedy series, 1996, for In the House; TV Land Impact Award, 2006, for Good Times.

Addresses: Office—Step and One Half Productions, P.O. Box 587, Califon, NJ 07830. Agent—c/o Michael Mesnick and Assoc., 11300 Olympic Blvd., Suite 610, Los Angeles, CA 90064. Web—www.thehalleyscometfoundation.org.

In 1973 Amos took a small part on another CBS sitcom. On Maude, a spinoff from the highly popular All in the Family, Amos played Henry Evans, husband to Maude's maid, Florida. The Henry and Florida characters proved so popular that CBS created another show exclusively for them, Good Times, which debuted in 1974. The sometimes controversial show profiled a fictitious black family living in public housing and trying to make a better life for themselves. Originally conceived as a comedy that would explore the social concerns of poor families, Good Times gradually became a vehicle for comedian Jimmie Walker, whose ebullient personality and trademark quip "Dyn-o-MITE!" began dominating the show. Amos objected strenuously to the changes. "There was too much emphasis on wearing chicken hats and ‘dyn-o-mite,’ and no equal representation of the other side, which is the world of academia, the young black guy who's not grabbing his crotch or wearing his hat sideways, but who aspires to a good life through the old traditional values," Amos opined in Newsday. "While we shouldn't have been doing [educational and cultural programming that appears on] PBS every week we certainly should have been putting more emphasis on a more positive role model."

Amos eventually quarreled with Norman Lear, the producer of Good Times, and when their exchange grew heated, Lear terminated Amos's contract. The Henry Evans character was "killed off" by a heart attack, and Good Times continued for several more seasons without Amos. The abrupt end to his sitcom work was hardly devastating for Amos, however. He had accepted a major dramatic role in a miniseries that would ingrain itself in American culture.

Starred in Roots

The miniseries Roots was based on the story of writer Alex Haley, who had traced his ancestry back to an enslaved African man named Kunta Kinte. In several installments, the show follows Kunta Kinte's life from his youth on the African savannah to his old age as a brutalized but still proud plantation slave. Amos was cast as the adult Kunta Kinte—a man determined to preserve his African heritage for future generations. In one of Roots's most memorable moments, Amos holds a child toward the night sky and says: "Behold! The only thing greater than yourself!" Chicago Tribune correspondent Allan Johnson referred to that scene as "surely one of the most significant moments in a drama filled with significant moments." Johnson further noted that Amos's work in Roots "sparked an awareness in African Americans of their heritage." The actor was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Kunta Kinte.

At the time of its first broadcast in 1977, Roots drew the highest ratings of any television show in history. The miniseries has since been rerun many times, and Amos has become closely associated with his role in the drama. In the wake of Roots's success the actor concentrated on theater and film work. He wrote his own one-man show called Halley's Comet and traveled across country performing it. He also took cameo roles—a villain here, a hero there—in such films as Die Hard 2, Lock Up, Coming to America, and The Beastmaster.

Middle age and the responsibility of caring for two growing children brought a gradual shift in Amos's political views. Once a "superliberal," as he described himself in the Washington Post, he has come to be more supportive of the conservative cause. This has not eroded Amos's social consciousness, however. Having moved back to New Jersey after years of living in California, he helped to open the first movie theater in downtown Newark since the 1960s and has worked with youngsters there who want to pursue theatrical careers. "I don't want to be blasé about it, but I go where the work is, and then I come home," Amos told Newsday, referring to his decision to live in New Jersey. "Cause this is my home—because of the theater, and because of my involvement with various organizations in the state."

Steady Work in Supporting Roles

In an ironic twist, Amos's return to regular TV work came about through his work with Norman Lear—the man he had clashed with over race roles in the early 1970s. The 1994 television pilot 704 Hauser Street teamed Amos with Norman once again in telling the story of Ernie Cumberbatch (played by Amos), a Vietnam War veteran and former civil rights activist who abhors Republican politics. The show effectively turns the old All in the Family formula upside down, featuring a liberal father and a conservative son living in the former home of the bumbling bigot and main character of All in the Family, Archie Bunker. While 704 Hauser Street is filmed on the former set of All in the Family, the new comedy has taken care to present all of its characters as intelligent and well read, able to argue their points on an intellectual level as well as an emotional one. Newsday reporter Diane Werts pointed out that various episodes "get to the crux of contrasting views on discrimination, virginity, and other issues. Sometimes Amos seems right; sometimes his son seems right. All the time, they compel each other to ponder why they believe what they do."

Amos and Lear buried whatever differences they may have had in the past and worked together in harmony to create the new show. "We've both changed, obviously for the better," Amos observed in USA Today. "We have a great relationship now." Though the show was not on the air for long, it helped remind television producers what a fine actor Amos was, and other roles followed. Amos grabbed the role of Fred Wilkes for four episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1994-95, then joined the cast of In the House for 11 episodes between 1995 and 1997. Amos's most notable role came in 1999 when he was cast in the recurring part of Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, a no-nonsense advisor to the president in the popular series The West Wing. In the autumn of 2006, Amos was cast in the role of Buzz in the Ann Heche comedy Men in Trees. In each of these series, Amos earned critical acclaim for his polished acting skills in supporting roles.

Led Active Life Offscreen

Supporting TV roles were probably best for Amos, who was quite busy pursuing other interesting projects beginning in the 1990s and 2000s. In 1990, Amos penned his own one-man play called Halley's Comet. The play tells the story of an 87-year-old man who relates his memories of life, beginning with his first sighting of the famous comet 76 years earlier. The play is "the love of my life, because I wrote the piece," Amos told Tavis Smiley. "Years ago, I realized that at any point as an actor, you're the extension of someone's ego. And unless your face is right on the top of that 8×10 pile, or whatever it is they select you from, you don't exist. So I said I'd better use the skills and the gifts that God has given me and write something for myself." Touring intermittently but consistently since 1990, the play has taken Amos to more than 400 cities.

Amos has also found real meaning through his work with the Halley's Comet Foundation. Amos started the foundation in 1999 when he purchased a 68-foot boat designed to look like a pirate ship. Amos hosts at-risk youth aboard the ship, where they master the techniques to keep the large boat on course while learning important lessons about success in life. Amos's passion for this work comes from the pleasure he takes in being a father and grandfather. Amos has two children: his daughter, Shannon, is a physical therapist, and his son, K.C., is a filmmaker. Amos takes great joy in his children's accomplishments and was able to work alongside K.C. in the early 2000s when he produced his son's first film, The Watermelon Heist. The pair plan another film based on Amos's early days as a football player. But Amos told Blackfilm: "Theatre is my first love, and whenever I am not involved in a TV or movie project and if I am not on an absolute vacation or doing some writing, I am probably involved in a theatrical production of some kind."

Selected works

Films

The World's Greatest Athlete, 1973.

Let's Do It Again, 1975.

The Beastmaster, 1983.

American Flyers, 1984.

Coming to America, 1988.

Lock Up, 1989.

Die Hard 2, 1990.

For Better or Worse, 1996.

Dr. Dolittle 3, 2006.

Ascension Day, 2007.

Television

Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-73, 1977.

Maude, 1973-74.

Good Times, 1974-76.

Roots (miniseries), 1977.

Future Cop, 1977-78.

Hunter, 1984.

704 Hauser Street, 1994.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1994-95.

In the House, 1995-97.

The West Wing, 1999-04.

The District, 2000-01.

Men in Trees, 2006-07.

Plays

Actor, writer, director, and producer, Halley's Comet, toured 1990-.

Appeared in Norman, Is That You?; The Emperor Jones; Master Harold…and the Boys; Split Second; and And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Vol. 4, Gale, 1987.

Periodicals

Back Stage West, July 17, 2003, p. 4.

Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1993, p. 14.

Huntsville (Alabama) Times, June 30, 2007.

Newsday, April 10, 1994, p. 20; April 11, 1994, p. B-25.

USA Today, April 27, 1994, p. D-3.

Washington Post, May 8, 1994, p. TV-6.

On-line

The Halley's Comet Foundation,www.thehalleyscometfoundation.org (July 23, 2007).

"John Amos: The First Dad of Black Life Telling It Like It Is," Blackfilm,http://blackfilm.com/0205/features/i-johnamos.shtml (July 23, 2007).

"John Amos' Unlikey, Oceanic Passion," NPR,http://216.35.221.77/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10821424 (July 23, 2007).

Other

Interviewed on The Tavis Smiley Show, May 4, 2006; transcript available at Tavis Smiley,www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200605/20060504_amos.html (July 23, 2007).

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Amos, John 1941–

John Amos 1941

Actor, producer, director

At a Glance

Football, Social Work, Acting

The Role of a Lifetime

Sources

Actor John Amos will forever be associated with the miniseries Roots, in which he portrayed a proud African man sold into slavery and subjected to unspeakable cruelties. However, Amos is just as comfortable with comedy, and his powerful build and stern but wry expression suit him for a variety of character roles. Amoss break into stardom came with the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the early 1970s, and for most of that decade he worked in a string of situation comedies, including the highly popular Good Times. After a decade of theater and film work, the former football player returned to lighter fare with the 1994 debut of 704 Hauser Street, a television show that addresses many current issues of political debate presented from the clashing viewpoints of a liberal father and a conservative son.

Amos plays the liberal role on 704 Hauser Street. His character, Ernie Cumberbatch, is a Vietnam War veteran and former civil rights activist abhorrent of Republican politics. The part seems tailor-made for Amos, who was for many years a liberal crusader in Hollywood, known for his willingness to jeopardize his career for his views. In fact, Amos once left a lucrative sitcom job because he objected to the images being purveyed by other black actors on the show. Ironically enough, Amos has found that his advancing years have moved him farther from the left than the lovable character he portrays in 704 Hauser. I guess I have gotten more conservative as Ive grown older, the actor was quoted as saying in the Washington Post. I cant solve all the worlds problems, and I cant solve all my countrys problems. So I do what I can: I start with my own family, taking care of my own kids first, my loved ones. Ive got to concentrate on my own family because Ive got to conserve energy. And from conserve comes the word conservatism.

The quiet admission of a more conservative view notwithstanding, Amos continues his crusade against the stereotyping of blacks both in front of the screen and in film and television production. A former screenwriter who has himself been victimized by bigotry more than once, Amos has worked long enough to benefit from changes in the entertainment industry. He notes with pride that two of the writers and the producer of 704 Hauser Street are black. More important, Amos himself has been accorded a degree of creative control that he lacked in previous television worka change he has welcomed more than any other. Now Im being given the opportunity to give of myself, not just to report to work each day and crank it out, he told Newsday.

At a Glance

Born December 27, 1941, in Newark, NJ; son of John A. (a mechanic) and Annabelle P. Amos; children: Shannon Patrice (daughter), K. C. (son). Education: Attended Colorado State University and Long Beach City College.

Professional football player in American, Continental, and Canadian football leagues, c 1962-65; actor, producer, director, writer, c. 1965. Principal television appearances include Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-73; Maude, 1973-74; Good Times, 1974-79; Roots, 1977; Hunter, 1984; 704 Hauser Street, 1994. Principal film appearances include The Worlds Greatest Athlete, 1973; Lets Do It Again, 1975; The Beastmaster, 1983; American Flyers, 1984; Coming to America, 1988; Lock Up, 1989; and Die Hard 2, 1990. Principal stage appearances include Norman, Is That You?; The Emperor jones; Master Harold and the Boys; Split Second; And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little; and Halleys Comet (also writer and director).

Selected awards: Los Angeles Drama Critics Award nomination, 1971, for Norman, Is That You?; Emmy Award nomination for best actor, 1977, for Roots; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award nomination for best actor, 1985, for Split Second.

Addresses: Home Summit, NJ. Agent Barry Douglas Talent Agency, 1650 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.

Football, Social Work, Acting

Amos was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, the only son of an auto mechanic. He was a rebellious youngster, especially after his parents divorced. I got in a lot of trouble as a kid and as a young man, he recalled in the Washington Post. I never hurt another human being, but I took things that didnt belong to me. I was a candidate for prison, a very good candidate. More than once, Amoss motherwho had sole responsibility for him and his sisterwas forced to bail her son out of jail. She finally informed Amos that she would no longer be humiliated by his behaviorhe was on his own. I straightened up, the actor said. The idea of losing your last safety net, it scared the hell out of me more than any incarceration in any institution ever could.

Scrapes with the law behind him, Amos plunged into sports. He became a good enough football player in high school to earn an athletic scholarship to Colorado State University. There he studied social work in preparation for a career helping others in the black community. After leaving Colorado State he returned east to New York City, where he served briefly as a public defender trying to get bail reductions for people who were incarcerated while awaiting trial. That job proved terribly disillusioning; Amos became convinced that the criminal justice system in New York was biased against black males. A different sort of work beckoned him, and he decided to give it a try.

Though many young boys dream of playing professional football; few ever achieve that goal. Amos was invited to try out for the Kansas City Chiefs, who signed and then cut him. When the Denver Broncos did the same thing, Amos enrolled in a training program that would prepare him to manage a McDonalds franchise. He then heard from several semi-pro football teams as well as the Canadian Football League. He spent three years in the American, Continental, and Canadian football leagues, including a brief stint with the British Columbia Lions. When the Lions also dropped him, Amos gave up on football. I said to myself, John, youre getting a little long in the tooth to be going to [football] tryouts, the actor remarked in the Washington Post. My daughter was then about a year and a half old, and I knew 1 was going to have to make a lifes decision.

Having performed as a stand-up comic in British Columbia, Amos decided to take a chance on a career in show business, figuring he could at least write for other people if he could not break in himself. Hollywood proved a tough arena for the former football player. Id go in when I first started in the business, trying to get a job as a writer, and theyd see a black guy with a 19-inch neck, Amos told Newsday. Once, he was informed that he could not possibly know anything about comedy. Amos refused to give up, though, and in the late 1960s he was hired as a writer-performer for the Lohman and Barkley Show, a cult classic in Los Angeles that also launched the career of director Barry Levinson.

The big break for Amos came in 1970, when he was cast as weatherman Gordy Howard on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. The role was small and intermittent, but it gave Amos the kind of exposure he needed to secure other, more meaningful parts elsewhere. He made his stage debut in 1971, in Norman, Is That You?, a drama that earned him a best actor nomination from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. He also found better stand-up work as a regular on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) series The Funny Side. The black guy with a 19-inch neck was well on his way to stardom.

The Role of a Lifetime

In 1973 Amos took a small part on another CBS sitcom. On Maude, a spinoff from the highly popular All in the Family, Amos played Henry Evans, husband to Maudes maid, Florida. The Henry and Florida characters proved so popular that CBS created another show exclusively for them, Good Times, which debuted in 1974. The sometimes controversial show profiled a fictitious black family living in public housing and trying to make a better life for themselves. Originally conceived as a comedy that would explore the social concerns of poor families, Good Times gradually became a vehicle for comedian Jimmie Walker, whose ebullient personality and trademark quip Dyn-o- MITEF! began dominating the show. Amos objected strenuously to the changes. There was too much emphasis on wearing chicken hats and dyn-o-mite, and no equal representation of the other side, which is the world of academia, the young black guy whos not grabbing his crotch or wearing his hat sideways, but who aspires to a good life through the old traditional values, Amos opined in Newsday. While we shouldnt have been doing [educational and cultural programming that appears on] PBS every week we certainly should have been putting more emphasis on a more positive role model.

Amos eventually quarreled with Norman Lear, the producer of Good Times, and when their exchange grew heated, Lear terminated Amoss contract. The Henry Evans character was killed off by heart attack, and Good Times continued for several more seasons without Amos. The abrupt end to his sitcom work was hardly devastating for Amos, however. He had accepted a major dramatic role in a mini-series that would ingrain itself in American culture.

The miniseries Roots was based on the story of writer Alex Haley, who had traced his ancestry back to an enslaved African man named Kunta Kinte. In several installments, the show follows Kunta Kintes life from his youth on the African savannah to his old age as a brutalized but still proud plantation slave. Amos was cast as the adult Kunta Kintea man determined to preserve his African heritage for future generations. In one of Roots most memorable moments, Amos holds a child toward the night sky and says: Behold! The only thing greater than yourself! Chicago Tribune correspondent Allan Johnson referred to that scene as surely one of the most significant moments in a drama filled with significant moments. Johnson further noted that Amoss work in Roots sparked an awareness in African Americans of their heritage. The actor was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Kunta Kinte.

At the time of its first broadcast in 1977, Roots drew the highest ratings of any television show in history. The miniseries has since been rerun many times, and Amos has become closely associated with his role in the drama. In the wake of Roots success the actor concentrated on theater and film work. He wrote his own one-man show called Halleys Comet and traveled across country performing it. He also took cameo rolesa villain here, a hero therein such films as Die Hard 2, Lock Up, Coming to America, and The Beastmaster.

Middle age and the responsibility of caring for two growing children brought a gradual shift in Amoss political views. Once a superliberal, as he described himself in the Washington Post, he has come to be more supportive of the conservative cause. This has not eroded Amoss social consciousness, however. Having moved back to New Jersey after years of living in California, he helped to open the first movie theater in downtown Newark since the 1960s and has worked with youngsters there who want to pursue theatrical careers. I dont want to be blasé about it, but i go where the work is, and then I come home, Amos told Newsday, referring to his decision to live in New Jersey. Cause this is my homebecause of the theater, and because of my involvement with various organizations in the state.

The 1994 television series 704 Hauser Street teams Amos with Norman Lear once again. The two men have left their differences in the past and are working together in harmony on the new show. Weve both changed, obviously for the better, Amos observed in USA Today. We have a great relationship now. Lear has welcomed Amoss creative ideas on 704 Hauser Street, even making the lead character a mechanic at Amoss request. The show effectively turns the old All in the Family formula upside down, featuring a liberal father and a conservative son living in the former home of the bumbling bigot and main character of All in the Family, Archie Bunker. While 704 Hauser Street is filmed on the former set of All in the Family, the new comedy has taken care to present all of its characters as intelligent and well-read, able to argue their points on an intellectual level as well as an emotional one. Newsday reporter Diane Werts pointed out that various episodes get to the crux of contrasting views on discrimination, virginity, and other issues. Sometimes Amos seems right; sometimes his son seems right. All the time, they compel each other to ponder why they believe what they do.

Reflecting on his return to situation comedy, Amos told the Washington Post: I really dont know whats going to happen with this show. It was always my contention that this show was either going to crash and burn or was going to go through the roof. We get stronger and the shows get better [with each episode], but I think that happens with any ensemble group.

Amos, who lives in western New Jersey, is the father of two grown children. His daughter, Shannon, is a physical therapist, and his son, K. C. is a filmmaker. Amos takes great joy in his childrens accomplishments and has likewise found personal peace and stability as he edges toward 60. In a review of 704 Hauser Street, Newsdays Diane Werts found that Amoss character still spends an inordinate amount of time being over-the-top angry. But John Amos has learned to expect the world not to agree with him, and to live peacefully with that difference of opinion. Or, when he cant live with it, to work with equanimity at overcoming it.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, vol. 4, Gale, 1987.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1993, p. 14.

Newsday, April 10, 1994, p. 20; April 11, 1994, p. B-25.

USA Today, April 27, 1994, p. D-3.

Washington Post, May 8, 1994, p. TV-6.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Amos, John 1939- (Johnny Amos)

Amos, John 1939- (Johnny Amos)

PERSONAL

Born December 27, 1939, in Newark, NJ; son of John A. (an auto mechanic) and Annabell P. Amos; married Noel J. Mickelson (divorced); married Lillian Lehman (an actress), February 12, 1978 (divorced); married Elisabete De Sousa; children: (second marriage) Shannon Patrice (a film producer and writer), K. C. (a director and writer). Education: Colorado State University, earned a sociology degree; also attended Long Beach City College. Avocational Interests: Scuba diving, boating, horseback riding, flying.

Addresses:

Agent—Diverse Talent Group, 1875 Century Park East, Suite 2250, Los Angeles, CA 90067.

Career:

Actor. Greenwich Village, New York City, stand-up comedian; Bahamian Repertory Company, director; Keane-Brown Center Stage, NJ, artistic direc- tor; Step and One Half Productions, creator, producer, and director; John Harms Theater, Englewood, NJ, artistic director; appeared in advertisements. Worked as a professional football player in the American, Continental, and Canadian football leagues, c. 1962-65; also a boxer; Vera Institute of Justice, New York City, social worker; Los Angeles, advertising copywriter.

Member:

Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).

Awards, Honors:

Los Angeles Drama Critics Award nomination, outstanding performance, 1971, for Norman, Is That You?; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actor for a single appearance in a drama or comedy series, 1977, and TV Land Anniversary Award (with others), 2007, both for Roots; Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), best actor, 1985, for Split Second; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, 1996, for In the House; TV Land Groundbreaking Show Award (with others), 2004, for The Mary Tyler Moore Show; TV Land Impact Award (with others), 2006, for Good Times.

CREDITS

Television Appearances; Series:

Gordon "Gordy" Howard, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (also known as Mary Tyler Moore), CBS, 1970-73, 1977.

Husband, The Funny Side, NBC, 1971.

Henry Evans, Maude, CBS, 1972-74.

James Evans, Sr., Good Times, CBS, 1974-76.

Officer Bill Bundy, Future Cop, ABC, 1977-78.

Captain Dolan, Hunter, NBC, 1984-86.

Detective Johnson, One Life to Live (also known as Between Heaven and Hell), ABC, 1987-88.

Ernest "Ernie" Cumberbatch, 704 Hauser (also known as 704 Hauser Street), CBS, 1994.

Fred Wilkes, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1994-95.

Coach Sam Wilson, In the House, UPN, 1995-97.

Percy Fitzwallace, The West Wing (also known as West Wing and El ala oeste de la Casablanca), NBC, 1999-2004.

Mayor Ethan Baker, The District (also known as Washington Police, The District—Einsatz in Washington, Mannions distrikt, and Poliisipaeaellikkkoe Mannion), CBS, 2000-2001.

Joe Anderson, All about the Andersons (also known as Familjen Anderson, Todo sobre los Anderson, and Tudo sobre os Andersons), The WB, 2003-2004.

Buzz, Men in Trees (also known as A ferfi fan terem and Teoria miehistae), ABC, 2006—.

Appeared in South by Southwest, PBS.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Kunte Kinte/Toby as an adult, Roots, ABC, 1977.

(Uncredited; in archive footage) Kunte Kinte/Toby as an adult, Roots: The Next Generations (also known as Racines 2, Raices: Las siguientes generaciones, and Roots—Die naechsten Generationen), ABC, 1979.

Bumpy Johnson, Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (also known as Alcatraz and Clarence Carnes), NBC, 1980.

Himself, I Love the '70s, VH1, 2003.

Himself, I Love the '80s Strikes Back, VH1, 2003.

Himself, TV Land Moguls, TV Land, c. 2004.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Marine corporal, The President's Plane Is Missing, ABC, 1973.

Virgil, Willa, CBS, 1979.

Mr. Mack, Bonanza: The Next Generation (also known as Bonanza: The Movie), syndicated, 1988.

Booker Hutch, The Rockford Files: Godfather Knows Best, CBS, 1996.

Booker Hutch, The Rockford Files: Murder and Misdemeanors, CBS, 1997.

Mr. Swift, Disappearing Acts (also known as Actos desesperados, Eine Liebe in Brooklyn, Medidas desesperadas, and Vise si dorinte), HBO, 2000.

Reverend Washington, Something to Sing About, 2000.

Dutch, Voodoo Moon (also known as Children of the Cornpone and Prisioneiro do demonio), Sci-Fi Channel, 2005.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Hang Tight, Willy Bill, syndicated, 1983.

Sergeant Harold Borman, You Are the Jury (also known as The State of Oregon vs. Stanley Manning), NBC, 1987.

(Uncredited; in archive footage) Detective Legrand, Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror, Independent Film Channel, 2000.

Himself, CBS at 75, CBS, 2003.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

The America's Awards, The Nashville Network, 1993.

Presenter, Third Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (also known as Screen Actors Guild Third Annual Awards), NBC, 1997.

The Fifth Annual Sears Soul Train Christmas Starfest, The WB, 2002.

The Sixth Annual Sears Soul Train Christmas Starfest, UPN, 2003.

The Second Annual TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV, TV Land, 2004.

The Fourth Annual TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV (also known as TV Land Awards 2006), TV Land, 2006.

The Fifth Annual TV Land Awards, TV Land, 2007.

The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 2007.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Repair person, "Swann's Way," Bill Cosby Show, NBC, 1970.

Tim Conway Comedy Hour, CBS, 1970.

"Love and the Bowling Ball/Love and the Check/Love and the Hiccups/Love and the Liberated Lady Boss," Love, American Style, ABC, 1971.

Mark Cooper, "The Harry Award," The New Dick Van Dyke Show, CBS, 1972.

"Love and the Alibi/Love and the Instant Father/Love and the Lovely Evening/Love and the Lover's Lane/Love and the Split Up," Love, American Style, ABC, 1972.

Luther, "A Visit from Lena Horne," Sanford and Son, NBC, 1973.

Himself, Dinah! (also known as Dinah and Dinah and Friends), syndicated, 1975 (multiple episodes).

Himself, The Merv Griffin Show, syndicated, 1975.

Himself, The Mike Douglas Show, syndicated, 1975.

Walt Kyles, "Oxford Gray," Police Story, NBC, 1976.

"Onward and Upward," Hanging In, CBS, 1979.

Foster, "Boomer Goes for the Gold," Here's Boomer, NBC, 1981.

Duke Taylor, "Zinging Valentine/The Very Temporary Secretary/The Final Score," The Love Boat, ABC, 1983.

Albie Meadows, "The Homecoming," Hardcastle and McCormick, ABC, 1984.

Reverend Johnson, "Pure-Dee Poison," The A Team, NBC, 1984.

Roland Hackett, "The Fred Connection," Trapper John, M.D., CBS, 1984.

Doc Penrose, "Death Takes a Dive," Murder, She Wrote, CBS, 1987.

Roy Jeffries, "Blood Money," Stingray, NBC, 1987.

Dr. Herbert, "The Physical," The Cosby Show, NBC, 1988.

"The Alchemist," Beauty and the Beast (also known as A Szepseg es a szoernyeteg, Die Schoene und das Biest, I pentamorfi kai to teras, La bella e la bestia, La bella y la bestia, La belle et la bete, and Skonheden og udyret), CBS, 1988.

Carl Manning, "Tongs," Gideon Oliver (also known as By the Rivers of Babylon), a segment of the The ABC Mystery Movie (also known as The Mystery Movie, The ABC Monday Mystery Movie, and The ABC Saturday Mystery Movie), ABC, 1989.

Himself, The Howard Stern Show, syndicated, 1990.

James Mackey, "The Hero," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1995.

Pastor Roscoe Jones, "Sons of Thunder," Walker, Texas Ranger (also known as Walker), CBS, 1997.

Sergeant Strawn (Tommy's father), "Daddy Dearest," Martin, Fox, 1997.

Voice of Glen Johnson, "Traffic Jam," King of the Hill (animated), Fox, 1998.

"First Time," Sports Theater with Shaquille O'Neal, Nickelodeon, c. 1998.

(Uncredited; in archive footage) Himself, "Good Times," The E! True Hollywood Story (also known as Good Times: The E! True Hollywood Story and THS), E! Entertainment Television, 2000.

Peter Yastrzemski, "Zig Zag," The Outer Limits (also known as The New Outer Limits), Showtime, Sci-Fi Channel, and syndicated, 2000.

Himself, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Inside TV Land (also known as Inside TV Land: The Mary Tyler Moore Show), TV Land, 2001.

Himself, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2004.

Himself, "Breakout and Disappearing Star," TV Land Confidential (also known as TV Land Confidential: The Untold Stories), TV Land, 2005.

Himself, "Changing Times and Trends," TV Land Confidential (also known as TV Land Confidential: The Untold Stories), TV Land, 2005.

Himself, "Writing, Rehearsing & Recording," TV Land Confidential (also known as TV Land Confidential: The Untold Stories), TV Land, 2005.

Himself, Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2006.

Himself, "Oddballs & Original Characters," TV Land Confidential (also known as TV Land Confidential: The Untold Stories), TV Land, 2007.

Uncle Burton Guster, "Meat Is Murder, but Murder Is Also Murder," Psych (also known as Psych—Dilis detektivek), USA Network, 2007.

Himself, Best Week Ever, VH1, 2007.

Appeared in other programs, including The Tonight Show, NBC.

Television Appearances; Pilots:

Husband, The Funny Side, NBC, 1971.

Walt Jones, Keeping up with the Joneses, NBC, 1972.

Charlie Travis, Two's Company, CBS, 1973.

Officer Bill Bundy, Future Cop, ABC, 1976.

Mel Haig, Clippers, CBS, 1991.

Mayor Ethan Baker, The District (also known as Washington Police, The District—Einsatz in Washington, Mannions distrikt, and Poliisipaeaellikkkoe Mannion), CBS, 2000.

Joe Anderson, All about the Andersons (also known as Familjen Anderson, Todo sobre los Anderson, and Tudo sobre os Andersons), The WB, 2003.

Buzz, Men in Trees (also known as A ferfi fan terem and Teoria miehistae), ABC, 2006.

Film Appearances:

(As Johnny Amos) Biker, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Cinemation Industries, 1971.

(Uncredited) Super Soul engineer, Vanishing Point, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971.

Coach Sam Archer, The World's Greatest Athlete, Buena Vista, 1972.

Kansas City Mack, Let's Do It Again, Warner Bros., 1975.

Tony, Touched by Love (also known as To Elvis, with Love), 1979.

Seth, The Beastmaster (also known as Beastmaster—Der Befreier, Dar I'invincible, El senor de las bestias, Kaan principe guerriero, Kungasonen, O guerreiro sagrado, Varvos mahitis, Voittamaton kostaja, and Wladca zwierzat), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1982.

Esteban, Dance of the Dwarfs (also known as Dance of the Dwarves and Jungle Heat), 1983.

Doctor Conrad, American Flyers, Warner Bros., 1985.

Cleo McDowell, Coming to America (also known as Prince in New York), Paramount, 1988.

Meissner, Lock Up, TriStar, 1989.

Detective Legrand, "The Black Cat" segment, Due occhi diabolici (also known as Two Evil Eyes), Taurus Entertainment, 1990.

Major Grant, Die Hard 2 (also known as Die Hard 2: Die Harder, A taepasta vaoi 2, Assalto ao aeroporto, Cinequante-huit minutes pour vivre, Die hard 2—58 minutes pour vivre, Die hard 2—58 minuti per morire, Die hard 2—vain kuolleen ruumiini yli, Duro de matar 2, 58 minutes pour vivre, La jungla 2: Alerta roja, Med doedlig paafoeljd 2, Meg dragabb az eleted, Poly skliros gia na pethanei 2, Stirb Langsam 2—Die Harder, Szklana pulapka 2, Umri muski 2, Umri pokoncno 2, Vain kuolleen ruumiini yli 2, and Visa hing 2), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990.

Blue Berry, Without a Pass, Chanticleer Films/Fried Films, 1991.

Reverend Styles, Ricochet (also known as Besatt av haemnd, Harhaluoti, Ricochet—Der Aufprall, Ricochete, Rikoset, Verdetto finale, and Visszakezboel), Warner Bros., 1991.

Nat, Mac (also known as Tre broeder), Samuel Goldwyn, 1992.

Captain Hodges, Night Trap (also known as Mardi Gras for the Devil), Prism Entertainment, 1993.

Wes Strickland, Hologram Man, PM Entertainment, 1995.

Gray, For Better or Worse (also known as Stranger Things, Mein Partner mit der heissen Braut, Para o melhor e para o pior, and Vicken looser), Columbia, 1996.

A Woman Like That, 1997.

Freeman, The Players Club, New Line Cinema, 1998.

Coach Zeller, All Over Again (also known as Against Time), Second Image Studios, 2000.

Dr. Bledsoe, Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (documentary), California Newsreel, 2002.

Old Man Amos, The Watermelon Heist (also known as Die Redneck Familie), Colored Wind Productions/Step and One Half Productions, 2003.

Admiral Melory, Lichnyy nomer (also known as Countdown), 2004.

Uncle Virgil, My Baby's Daddy (also known as My Baby's Mama, El padre de mi hijo, Hiphop faijat, Il padre de mio figlio, Papas cheris, and Unos padres de cuidado), Miramax, 2004.

(Uncredited; in archive footage) TV in Black: The First Fifty Years (documentary), Koch Vision, 2004.

Hill, Boy s tenyu (also known as Shadow Boxing and Voitlus varjuga), Central Partnership, 2005.

Jud Jones, Dr. Dolittle 3 (also known as Docteur Dolittle 3 and Elaeintohtori 3), Twentieth Century-Fox Home Entertainment, 2006.

Henry, Ascension Day (also known as 3/5 of a Man), Freedom Reign Productions/Oxbow Productions, 2007.

Mr. Kimball, Hauntsville, Colored Wind Productions/Stelly Entertainment, 2007.

Film Work:

Director and producer of Grambling Takes It All Back Home. Director and producer of a documentary for the Amistad America Project.

Stage Appearances:

Ben Chambers, Norman, Is That You?, Ebony Showcase Theatre, Los Angeles, 1971.

Luther Jackson, Tough to Get Help, Royale Theatre, New York City, 1972.

The Emperor Jones, 1979.

Sam, Master Harold and the Boys, Birmingham Theatre, Birmingham, MI, 1983.

Rusty, Split Second, Mayfair Theatre, 1985.

Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night (also known as Twelfth Night, or What You Will), New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theater, Delacorte Theater, New York City, 1989.

Earl Davis, The Past Is the Past, Billie Holiday Theatre, Brooklyn, New York City, 1989-90.

Halley's Comet (solo show), Billie Holiday Theatre, then American Stage Company, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, both 1990.

Fences, Capital Repertory Company, Albany, NY, 1990-91.

Stage Director:

Forever My Darling, Grant Avenue Community Center, Plainfield, NY, 1988.

Halley's Comet (solo show), Billie Holiday Theatre, Brooklyn, New York City, then American Stage Company, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, both 1990.

Also directed And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little and Twelve Angry Men, both Bahamian Repertory Company.

RECORDINGS

Videos:

Detective in "Natural Born Killaz" segment, Murder Was the Case: The Movie, Interscope Records, 1995.

Himself and Kunta Kinte/Toby, Remembering "Roots" (short), Warner Home Video, 2002.

Music Videos:

Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, "Natural Born Killaz," 1995.

Albums:

Recorded songs for an album.

WRITINGS

Screenplays:

Wrote screenplays for films, including Grambling Takes It All Back Home.

Teleplays; Episodic:

The Leslie Uggams Show, CBS, 1969.

Writings for the Stage:

Halley's Comet (solo show), Billie Holiday Theatre, Brooklyn, New York City, then American Stage Company, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, both 1990.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 6, Gale Research, 1994.

Periodicals:

Theater Week, July 9, 1989.

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"Amos, John 1939- (Johnny Amos)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Amos, John 1939- (Johnny Amos)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/amos-john-1939-johnny-amos

"Amos, John 1939- (Johnny Amos)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/amos-john-1939-johnny-amos