Legendary Friday Actor John Witherspoon Dead At 77

Beloved actor-comedian John "Pops" Witherspoon has passed away at the age of 77 in his Sherman Oaks home. 

For decades, Witherspoon entertained through television and film with memorable roles in the Friday film franchise, providing the voice of Grandad in The Boondocks, and appearing in countless other projects. The news of his death was announced on Witherspoon's Twitter, alongside a photo of the late actor. 

"It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband and father John Witherspoon has passed away. He was a Legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years. We love you "POPS" always & forever." At the time of this writing, his cause of death is unknown.

In a statement to Deadline, Witherspoon's family said, "John used to say 'I'm no big deal,' but he was a huge deal to us." And that's no understatement — the actor had a huge impact on the entertainment industry.

Make 'em laugh

The late, great John Witherspoon was born in Detroit, Mich. on Jan. 27, 1942, with a slightly different name: John Weatherspoon. After launching a stand-up comedy career, Witherspoon caught the acting bug in the late 1970s. He got his start with guest-starring television roles, appearing on Barnaby Jones in 1979, before making his feature debut in The Jazz Singer in 1980. Once he got his start, the actor was on quite a roll, going on to appear in dozens of films and television series, including Hollywood Shuffle, Boomerang, Vampire in Brooklyn, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and The Tracy Morgan Show. 

Despite having a long list of memorable roles, the actor is perhaps best known for his breakout role as Ice Cube's father, Willie Jones, in the 1995 movie Friday. The actor also appeared in the sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next alongside celebrities like Regina King and the late Bernie Mac. Witherspoon was also expected to reprise his iconic role in the final installment of the franchise, Last Friday, which is currently in pre-production. Another gig the actor likely had on the horizon? Reprising his role as the voice of Gramps on the beloved animated series The Boondocks. Although the show aired its final episode in 2014, there's an upcoming revival on HBO Max, of which the actor likely would have been a part. Witherspoon also made his mark as Pops, the father of Shawn and Marlon Wayans on their eponymous sitcom The Wayans Bros., starring in more than 100 episodes from 1995 to 1999. 

According to Deadline, even at the age of 77, Witherspoon maintained his passion for his first love: stand-up comedy. At the time of his death, the actor had several gigs lined up. 

John Witherspoon's family says goodbye

John Witherspoon is survived by his wife Angela, sons John David and Alexander, and a large extended family. Following the news of his father's death, John David, also a stand up comic who goes by JD Witherspoon, took to Twitter to issue his own statement. "So... my Dad died today & honestly I'm not sure how to feel. I'm sad, but I'm also happy 4 all the great times we had together. We'd roast each other like homes more than Father & Son, and I really liked that. He was my best friend & idol," he wrote, alongside four photos of them together through the years. "Love U Dad... I'll miss u." 

In their overall statement to Deadline, Witherspoon's family asked for time to process the tragic event away from the public eye. "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." However, even though the family asked for privacy as they grieve, they will not mourn Witherspoon alone. 

Hollywood mourns the loss of a legend

Since news broke of John Witherspoon's death, tributes to the comedic legend have come pouring in. His on-screen son, Ice Cube, was one of the first celebrities to take to social media to grieve, writing, "I'm devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won't be as funny without him," alongside a photo with the actor. Another on-screen son, Marlon Wayans, posted a touching tribute on Instagram writing, in part, "I'm sad. Broken. Hurt.. yet extremely grateful to God that i got to spend 5 years of my life working with one of the funniest sweetest wisest humblest loving man @johnnywitherspoon." He continued, "you were my tv dad and my mentor and my friend. I miss you already." 

Fellow Friday actor Regina King also had a few words to share, captioning a clip of Witherspoon, "My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration! I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King." Even though he is gone, Witherspoon's legacy will live on through his unforgettable roles and the lives he touched along the way.