1) Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was much older than James Evans (John Amos): Florida was born in 1920 and James was born in 1939. So, when show began in 1974, Florida was already 54 years old, married to a 35-year old husband.
2) JJ was an old man too: JJ, played by Jimmie Walker, was born in 1947, only 8 years later than James. He was certainly no teenager on the show, being 27-years old when the show released its debut.
3) Willona (played by Ja’net Dubois) was only 2 years older than JJ. They could have dated each other.
4) Esther Rolle was consistently annoyed that even though the show was created around her, a comedian (Jimmie Walker) was getting all of the attention.
5) The show was created by Michael Evans, who also played Lionel Jefferson on another show you might have heard of. He based the show on his own childhood.
6) The show was a spinoff of another show, called “Maude,” where Florida was a maid. They changed the name of her husband in the spinoff.
7) Jay Leno appeared on the show in an episode about STDs, one of the first in the history of television.
8) In her indignation over JJ’s role, Esther said: “He’s eighteen and he doesn’t work. He can’t read or write. He doesn’t think. The show didn’t start out to be that…Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn’t do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child.”
9) When John Amos left the show after failed contract negotiations, he said this about JJ’s character: “The writers would prefer to put a chicken hat on J.J. and have him prance around saying “DY-NO-MITE”, and that way they could waste a few minutes and not have to write meaningful dialogue.”
10) Esther Rolle was convinced to come back during the last season under three conditions: They would write out the character that she ran off and married after James’ death (since she didn’t think Florida would move on so quickly), they would give her a raise in salary, and JJ would have more respectable, intelligent roll. Oddly enough, that’s when the show started to tank in the ratings.