John Witherspoon, an actor and comedian best known for his role in the “Friday” movie franchise and other hit films and television shows including “The Tracy Morgan Show,” “The Wayans Bros.” and “The Boondocks,” died on Tuesday. He was 77.
His death was reported by The Associated Press, which cited his manager. No cause was given.
In a statement to the entertainment site Deadline, Mr. Witherspoon’s family said he had died at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “John used to say, ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was huge deal to us,” the family said.
“He was a legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years,” read a statement on Twitter that was posted on his account. “We love you ‘POPS’ always & forever.”
Mr. Witherspoon was born in Detroit in 1942, according to IMDb. He began his career in stand-up comedy and briefly modeled in New York before going on to appear and star in dozens of films and television series, including his most recent project, the comedy series “Black Jesus.”
But his breakout role was in the 1995 movie “Friday,” a comedy about two friends rushing to pay a neighborhood drug dealer. He played Mr. Jones, the father of Ice Cube’s character, and reprised that role in two sequels, “Next Friday” in 2000 and “Friday After Next” in 2002. Mr. Witherspoon had been expected to play the role again in the final chapter of the series, “Last Friday,” Deadline reported.
In an April 2019 Netflix interview, Mr. Witherspoon said he had been paid $5,000 for “Friday,” was paid $400,000 for the second sequel and “over a million” dollars for the third installment.
Despite the initially low payment, Mr. Witherspoon said “all that stuff helped me,” helping him land other movie and television roles.
“You do your best,” he said. “At least that’s what I do. I do my best and I add, my thing is I can add lines.”
Ice Cube said on Twitter: “I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him.”
Regina King, who starred with Mr. Witherspoon in “Friday” and “The Boondocks,” also sent her condolences. “My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration!” she wrote on Twitter. “I love you Spoons! Rest in Paradise, King.”
A day before his death, Mr. Witherspoon posted a new episode of “Cooking for Poor People” to his YouTube channel, in which he gave step-by-step instructions on how to make “Poor Man’s Gumbo.”
As he spoke about cooking, Mr. Witherspoon interjected his opinions on politics and current events with his own comedic flare.
The episode, which by Wednesday morning had been viewed more than 30,000 times, was his first video in over a year because of a “big schedule” this year, he said.