His notable movie role was that of Ezal, a homeless African-American thief living in South Central Los Angeles in the 1995 stoner comedy “Friday,” written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh and starring Cube and Chris Tucker.
In an interview with DJ Vlad, Johnson said he was asked to play a role on the “Friday” sequel, “Next Friday,” and even agreed on a salary. But when it came time to film, Johnson said he was excluded and barred from the set.
“Next Friday” was released in 2000. It was the first film to be produced by Ice Cube’s film production company Cubevision. Cube starred in it, along with Mike Epps, Don “D.C.” Curry, John Witherspoon, and Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. A third film, “Friday After Next,” was released in 2002.
Johnson told DJ Vlad what happened when he showed up on the set of “Next Friday.”
“… we came to a number that I was getting and we shook hands,” Johnson said. About two to three weeks later, he said he got a phone call about “Next Friday” already being in production. Johnson said he headed to the film set and Ice Cube barred him from the set. Johnson said he found out that Ice Cube had hired someone else “to play my part for way less than what he was gonna give me.”
Fans and celebrities took to social media to remember the actor with messages such as “Rest in power, Anthony! We will miss you!”
His “Friday” co-star Ice Cube tweeted, “Sad to wake up to the news about AJ Johnson passing away. Naturally funny dude who was straight outta Compton at the same time. Sorry I couldn’t bring your character Ezal back to the big screen in Last Friday…”
Twitter users weren’t buying Ice Cube’s apology and questioned his motives.
“He had him bared off the set and lied to him” sulenia @sulenia2 tweeted.
“The way you just casually plugged this movie in here,” @NonBinaryGemini tweeted.
Johnson’s death was confirmed by his representative LyNea Bell, owner and president of BH Talent, Deadline reported. No cause of death was given.
“The world of comedy has truly been shaken, again,” Bell in a statement. “Our BH Talent family is heartbroken about the loss of the iconic legend of stage and screen Mr. Anthony ‘AJ’ Johnson. He has left with us amazing memories of his laughter, dynamic acting skills, but most of all his enormous personality and heart of gold. We will be in constant prayer for his entire family including his wife Lexis, 3 children, brother Edward ‘Peanut’ Smith, sister Sheila, and lifetime manager and friend Mike D. Please give them the time they need to process and grieve such a huge loss.”
Johnson’s breakthrough role was the character E.Z.E. in the 1990 comedy film “House Party” starring hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play.
Born in Compton, California, Johnson began performing stand-up comedy in the 1990s. His other films include “Menace II Society” (1993), “BAPS” (1997), and “I Got The Hook-Up (1998).” Among his TV credits are “The Parent ‘Hood” (1995), “Malcolm & Eddie” (1997), and “The Jamie Foxx Show (1997).”
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