John “Pops” Witherspoon, the comedian known for hit roles as Willie Jones in Friday as well as Robert “Grandad” Freeman has passed away according to Deadline. He was 77.
“It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks at the age of 77,” Witherspoon’s family told Deadline in a statement. “He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD, Alexander, and a large family. We are all in shock, please give us a minute for a moment in privacy and we will celebrate his life and his work together. John used to say ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was huge deal to us.”
Witherspoon starred alongside Eddie Murphy in Boomerang as well as Shawn & Marlon Wayans in The Wayans Bros.
Born in Detroit, MI, Witherspoon rose to fame as a character actor, notably with Richard Pryor on Pryor’s eponymous show in the 1970s. In the ’80s, the comic continued to turn heads with roles in Hollywood Shuffle but it was the ’90s where his quotables began to shine at their brightest.
Beginning with 1990’s House Party, Witherspoon enamored himself with audiences as a wild man who could say whatever and do whatever came to mind. Plenty of lines such as “You got to coordinate,” and “Bang bang bang!” became part of the culture. Always down to steal a scene, his turn as Willie Jones in three Friday movies established him as one of the uncles of a generation. He appeared in music videos for Jay-Z and Field Mob in the 2000s and even as he began to get up there in age, he continued to tour across the country with new material.
Witherspoon also guest-starred on both Martin & The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and also starred as Robert “Granddad” Freeman on Adult Swim’s The Boondocks.
Last month, the show was set to be rebooted for HBO Max. It is unclear how the show will proceed without granddad as an outpouring of condolences from friends to co-stars and more began almost immediately as news broke of his passing.
Witherspoon’s film and television catalog spans nearly five decades including projects such as Vampire In Brooklyn, I’m Gon’ Git You Sucka, Meteor Man, Black-ish, I Got the Hook-Up, Soul Plane, Little Man, Living Single and much more.