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Actress Ja’Net DuBois, who was best known for her six seasons as Willona Woods on Norman Lear's 1970s hit sitcom Good Times, died Tuesday at the age of 74. After news spread of her passing, which appears to be due to natural causes, many of the celebrities that she either worked with, or whose lives she touched in some way, began taking to social media to pay tribute to the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning actress and her film and TV career of over 50 years.
Music superstar Janet Jackson got a major start in her acting career by playing Ja'Net DuBois' adopted daughter, Penny, on Good Times from 1977-1979. Their heart-wrenching storyline saw fashionable neighborhood gossip Willona take Penny in after it was discovered that the little girl was being abused by her mother. It's clear from Jackson's Instagram post that the time she spent playing DuBois' new charge meant a lot to her, both when she was a young child coming up in the business, but also as time went on:
Famed television producer Norman Lear, who developed and executive produced Good Times as a spinoff of his other primetime hits Maude and All in the Family, also posted a sweet tribute to Ja'Net DuBois on Instagram, which put a spotlight on a contribution to another classic comedy, The Jeffersons, that many may not know she made:
Oscar winner Viola Davis portrayed Good Times matriarch Florida Evans in the Live in Front of a Studio Audience recreation of a classic episode last December, which also featured actress / comedian Tiffany Haddish as Willona. Davis had the opportunity to meet Ja'Net DuBois at the taping, and shared her shock, sadness and memories on Twitter when she heard of DuBois' death:
Holly Robinson Peete of 21 Jump Street and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper fame, had the chance to work with Ja'Net DuBois on the latter show back in 1994, and shared just how much it meant to be able to spend time with an actress she had grown up watching:
I don't doubt that Ja'Net DuBois did, indeed, have plenty of wisdom to share with Holly Robinson Peete, and any of the younger actors she worked with over the years. She got her first screen credit in A Man Called Adam in 1966 and went on to appear in a number of classics and beloved films and TV shows, such as Sanford and Son, Kojack, A Piece of the Action, The Love Boat, The Facts of Life, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, A Different World, Beverly Hills, 90210, ER, The Wayans Bros., The PJs and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
Ja'Net DuBois will be missed, but we can always relive her work and some of the most fashionable entrances ever shown on television. Observe this additional tweet by Holly Robinson Peete which is sure to make any Good Times fan want to revisit the series, while anyone who hasn't seen the classic show yet should certainly be intrigued:
Our thoughts are with Ja'Net DuBois' family and friends at this difficult time.