Ja’net DuBois, who is remembered for her six-season stint on CBS sitcom Good Times, was found dead in her Glendale, California home on Tuesday. Her family told TMZ the actress died unexpectedly in her sleep. She was believed to be 74 years old.
Born Jeannette DuBois in Brooklyn, New York (according to one source), her status as supporting character Willona Woods on the Maude spin-off was upgraded to lead in the fifth season (in 1977-78) after Esther Rolle temporarily exited Good Times. At the time, DuBois’ Willona adopted a young girl named Penny Gordon, played by Janet Jackson, and remained on the series through the series-finale on January 30, 1980.
Ironically, the characters of Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) and Willona Woods on Good Times were supposed to be former schoolmates, but there was an estimated 25 year age difference between the two in real life.
DuBois was also a singer and a songwriter, known in particular for co-writing and performing the theme song for comedy The Jeffersons.
She also voiced the character of Mrs. Avery in claymation comedy The P.J.s on Fox (for which she won two Emmys for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance), as well as Mrs. Patterson in animated As Told by Ginger. In 1987, DuBois appeared in former Good Times co-star Janet Jackson’s 1987 “Control” music video as her mother.
Earlier in hef career, DuBois made the guest rounds on series like Sanford and Son, Shaft, The Blue Knight, Kojak and Caribe. After Good Times, she was back as a guest star in a multitude of shows including The Love Boat, The Facts of Life (in a backdoor pilot titled Brian and Sylvia), Houston Knights, A Different World, and Beverly Hills, 90210. From 1996 to 1997, she returned as Willona Woods on WB sitcom The Wayans Bros.