57 (passed away Dec. 14th, 2006)
Nov. 3rd, 1949
Salisbury, North Carolina, USA
Mike Evans' Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Cleancut and smoothly handsome as a youth, Mike Evans got on board the Norman Lear TV train in the early 1970s and took a straight ride to sitcom stardom in both a landmark comedy series and its black-oriented spin-off. Born Michael Jonas Evans in Salisbury, North Carolina, on November 3, 1949, his dentist father and school instructor mother moved the family to Los Angeles when Mike was quite young. Graduating from Los Angeles High School, he attended Los Angeles City College before his abrupt TV success.
Landing the role of black next-door neighbor Lionel Jefferson in Lear's iconic sitcom "All in the Family" (1971) was a lucky fluke -- something every fledgling actor should get to experience. In fact, Mike was still attending acting school when he was cast in the 1971 show at age 21. The series altered the course of TV comedy while tackling many then-taboo subjects, including racial prejudice. Due to the quality of the cast and writing, the series managed to thoroughly engage and entertain an audience despite it being fronted by a blue-collar bigot in the form of Archie Bunker (played by the great 'Carroll OConnor). As the calm, intelligent, level-headed Lionel, son of hothead George (Sherman Hemsley) and his beleaguered wife Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford), Lionel's liberal-minded stance was more akin to Archie's live-in younger generation. As friend to Archie's daughter Gloria and his husband Mike, Lionel had to somehow tolerate his grouchy neighbor's exasperating politically-incorrect banter, but made up for it with clever, carefully-worded digs at the often-clueless Archie. During the run of the show, Mike also boosted his visibility with the TV-movies Killer by Night (1972) (TV), Call Her Mom (1972) (TV) and The Voyage of the Yes (1973) (TV) co-starring Desi Arnaz Jr., not to mention the Disney family comedy feature Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972) starring Kurt Russell (I).
The hit series spun the Jefferson clan into their own "moving on up" sitcom "The Jeffersons" (1975) four years later. The "moving on up" was from Queens to a "deluxe apartment" in Manhattan, where the burgeoning, financially successful George now held court as head intolerant. Mike's character eventually met and fell for Jenny, the beautiful product of an interracial marriage. This became a major source of combustible comedy material that initially fed the new sitcom. In the meantime Mike and writing partner Eric Monte (I) had also co-created and was writing for another Lear sitcom "Good Times" (1974), which was a spin-off of Lear's comedy hit "Maude" (1972), which, in turn, was a spin-off of sitcom daddy "All in the Family" (1971).
The major responsibilities and hardships of writing for "Good Times", which became one of the first TV sitcoms to feature a primarily African-American cast in quite some time, took its toll and Mike began making fewer appearances as Lionel. In fact he left the role completely in the fall of 1975 after only eight months to focus on his writing, and was replaced by actor Damon Evans (I) (no relation to Mike), who inhabited the part for four seasons. Mike eventually reclaimed the part in 1979 after the cancellation of "Good Times". His character of Lionel, however, had dwindled so significantly in importance that he left the show again in 1981, this time for good. The family show ended its long run in 1985 after a decade.
Mike took on a low profile after his 1970s successes and was not seen again until glimpsed in a 2000 episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger". By this time he had delved into Southern California real estate. He died of throat cancer in 2006 at age 57 at his mother's home in Twentynine Palms, California.
- As co-creator of _"Good Times" (1974)_ (qv), his job duties increased, forcing him to leave _"The Jeffersons" (1975)_ (qv). He was temporarily replaced by 'Damon Evans (I)' (qv).
- Survived by his daughter, Tammy; his mother, Annie; his brother, Thomas; his cousin, Harold; and his niece, Chrystal.
- Both Evans and his writing partner 'Eric Monte (I)' (qv) drifted into entertainment oblivion after the demise of _"Good Times" (1974)_ (qv) in 1979. While Evans stayed afloat for a time, returning to his Lionel Jefferson acting role until 1981, Monte, who also wrote the film _Cooley High (1975)_ (qv), subsequently developed a crack addiction and had a series of strokes before being discovered living in an East L.A. homeless shelter in 2006. He is currently recovered and trying to write again and get back into the business.
- Studied acting at Los Angeles City College.
- Had been a real estate investor prior to his death. He received his real estate license in 1986.
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