Sad news continues to roll in this week as actress Ja'net DuBois has passed away. Best known for her recurring role as Willona Woods on the classic comedy series Good Times, DuBois died in her sleep at her Glendale, California home with a family member finding her on Tuesday. Reportedly, DuBois seemed to be in good health and had even attended a fan event in Hollywood recently, so her passing comes as a shock to her family and those who knew her. She was 74 years old.
DuBois was born in 1945 and raised in Amityville, New York. She took a very early interest in performing, and as a young girl, she appeared in the Broadway Golden Boy alongside Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Gossett Jr. She would later co-star with Davis again when she appeared in the 1966 drama movie A Man Called Adam, playing the girlfriend of Davis' character. DuBois found work on television as well, with one of her earlier roles casting her as Loretta Allen on the '70s soap opera Love of Life, which made her the first African-American to star as a regular cast member on a daytime serial.
When DuBois was spotted performing on stage by television producer Norman Lear, she was cast in her career's biggest role as neighbor Willona Woods on Good Times, the best friend to Esther Rolle's character. DuBois served as a main cast member for all six seasons of the series, appearing in 133 episodes between 1974 and 1979. She would later reunite with her Good Times co-star Janet Jackson in 1987 when she appeared in Jackson's music video for the song "Control."
In the subsequent years after Good Times, DuBois snagged roles in a variety of comedy television series. This includes The Golden Palace, Sister, Sister, Home Improvement, and Moesha. She also had a recurring role as Grandma Ellington on The Wayans Bros. and appeared in multiple episodes of As Told by Ginger. DuBois was a talented voice actress as well, lending her voice to Mrs. Florence Avery on the stop-motion animation series The PJs. For the voice role, DuBois won two Primetime Emmy Awards in 1999 and 2001 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.
Additionally, DuBois had some other notable talents exhibited through her work. She further showcased her range as an actress to win a CableAce award for Best Supporting Actress in the Lifetime movie Other Women's Children. She would also launch a performing-arts school for teenagers in the '80s called the Ja'net DuBois Academy of Theater Arts and Sciences, later co-founding the Pan African Film & Arts Festival with Danny Glover and Ayuko Babu in 1992. Interestingly enough, DuBois was a gifted singer as well, co-writing and singing The Jeffersons theme song "Movin' on Up."
DuBois' survivors include her three children, and our thoughts are with them at this time. Those of us who remember her as the hilarious actress and talented singer she was will certainly miss her very much as well. May she rest in peace as her memory forever lives on. This news comes to us from TMZ.