Before he was 30, Mike Evans acted in two classic 1970s sitcoms and helped create a third.
Evans, who played Lionel, Archie Bunker's and George Jefferson's unflappable foil in All in the Family and The Jeffersons and went on to cocreate Good Times, has died.
Evans succumbed to throat cancer last week in Twentynine Palms, California, his family told the Los Angeles Times. He was 57.
Evans was still a Los Angeles City College student when the young actor won a recurring role on All in the Family as Lionel Jefferson, the (black) next-door neighbor of the (white) bigot Bunker.
Evans appeared on more than two dozen episodes of the top-rated sitcom from 1971 to 1975, his character almost always managing to vex Bunker more with his point of view than with the color of his skin.
On The Jeffersons, an All in the Family spinoff that debuted in 1975, Evans was initially a series regular, Lionel's even-keeled nature required to contrast with the volcanic nature of his "honky"-spouting father, George Jefferson.
Evans left The Jeffersons after its first season, just as Good Times was embarking on its third.
Good Times, cocreated by Evans and Eric Montee, a writer friend from the actor's L.A. City College days, was an All in the Family spinoff, one generation removed. It focused on Florence Evans, the former maid on direct All in the Family descendant Maude, her family, their housing-project digs in Chicago and Jimmie Walker's "Dyn-o-mite" catchphrase.
Good Times was produced from 1974 to 1979. Even during its run, Evans continued to act, costarring on the short-lived 1976-77 Danny Thomas comedy The Practice.
After Good Times ended, Evans returned to The Jeffersons, replacing Damon Evans (no relation) who'd replaced him for four seasons.
Evans left the show again in 1981 after Lionel split with his wife, the daughter of the Jeffersons' neighbors, the Willises, but continued to pop up on the sitcom until its 1985 sign-off.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Evans had only one post-Lionel acting role, a 2000 guest bit on Walker, Texas Ranger. Of more recent ventures, the Times reported he "invested in real estate in Southern California."
Monte, Evans' Good Times cohort, was profiled by the Times this week for his efforts to pull out of a dive that left him living in a Salvation Army shelter. An earlier profile on Monte, published by the newspaper last April, briefly quoted Evans, who talked about how his partner got funnier "if he would start drinking cheap wine."
Born Nov. 3, 1949, in North Carolina, Evans also appeared on Love, American Style, The Streets of San Francisco and the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man.