NOEL KING, HOST:
The actress and singer Ja'Net Dubois has died at her home in Glendale, Calif. She was a pioneering black actress. She starred in shows like "Good Times," where she came across like your favorite aunt. Here's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Ja'Net Dubois was known for making big entrances, playing irreverent neighbor Willona Woods on the classic sitcom "Good Times."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GOOD TIMES")
JA'NET DUBOIS: (As Willona Woods) Hi. I'm Willona. Fly me.
DUBOIS: (As Willona) Fly me straight to the kitchen, pour me a cup of coffee, and make it like I like my man - hot, black and strong.
DEGGANS: But she also earned a spot in TV history singing and co-writing the theme song to another well-known television comedy, "The Jeffersons."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVIN' ON UP")
DUBOIS: (Singing) Well, we're moving on up to the East Side...
DEGGANS: Born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, Dubois started her career during the 1960s in Broadway shows like "Golden Boy" and "A Raisin In The Sun." Before long, she joined the soap opera "Love Of Life," becoming the first black woman cast as a regular on a daytime serial. She joined "Good Times" after executive producer Norman Lear saw her in a stage show. Co-star Bern Nadette Stanis, who played Thelma Evans, said Dubois was every bit as entertaining offstage as she was on-screen.
BERN NADETTE STANIS: She was this kind of person that would always make us smile, make us happy. I remember on the set, she used to come out with different characters and make us laugh. She was funny like that. And, you know, she was the diva. You know, she had all the best clothes in the world and - you know, Miss Thing.
DEGGANS: Dubois released albums as a singer and co-founded the Pan African Film Festival, which is currently underway in Los Angeles. She also appeared in several films and TV shows like "Moesha" and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," earning two Emmys for her work on the animated show "The PJs." Ja'Net Dubois died in her sleep at age 74. She's survived by three children.
Eric Deggans, NPR News.
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