The Heart-Wrenching Death Of Actor Anthony Johnson

Actor and comedian Anthony Johnson has died at the age of 55. Per TMZ, no cause of death is available at this time. His representative, LyNea Bell, confirmed his passing: "Our BH Talent family is saddened about the loss of an amazing iconic legend in comedy, our client and friend Anthony 'AJ' Johnson." According to Johnson's nephew, he was "found lifeless in a store earlier this month in Los Angeles and rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead." Johnson was perhaps best known for his role as Ezal in the 1995 comedy classic "Friday" — a role he was rumored to be reprising in the upcoming "Last Friday" scheduled for release in 2023, per IMDb

Johnson was born in Compton, California, and made his debut in the 1982 TV movie "Puss In Boots." He went on to appear in a slew of movies and television shows, including "House Party, "House Party 3," "Menace II Society," "B*A*P*S," "The Great White Hype," "How To Be A Player," "The Player's Club," "Moesha," "Martin," "The Jamie Foxx Show," and "Malcolm & Eddie." He also starred as Blue alongside Master P's Black in the 1998 comedy hit "I Got The Hook Up," and he reprised the role in the 2019 sequel "I Got The Hookup 2." Johnson was also a popular stand-up comedian, which came to be after he was discovered by comedian Robin Harris on the set of "House Party." Per a 2018 interview with Vlad TV, Harris invited him to come down to his comedy club and perform.

Anthony Johnson was a 'naturally funny dude'

In the Vlad TV interview, Anthony Johnson also shared that his father had been a stuntman and had started the Black Stuntman Association in response to the common practice of white stuntmen doing stunts for Black actors. His father went on to be a background casting director, and Johnson took on small roles as a background performer. Eventually, he began winning larger roles, perhaps because of heeding his father's advice to "always stand out. Do something on camera to make people remember [you]."

Johnson also appeared in several music videos, including his memorable turn and first major on-screen appearance as "Sleazy-E," a disparaging parody of rapper Eazy-E in the Dr. Dre video "Dre Day." Johnson reprised the role in Eazy-E's video for "Real Compton City G's." Dr. Dre and Eazy had a well-publicized falling out after the dissolution of their legendary group N.W.A., and Johnson's parody became part of the ongoing argument. He told Vlad TV that Dr. Dre cast him in the video after seeing his performance at the Comedy Store; Eazy-E then contacted him to reprise the role because people had thought that it was actually Eazy-E in "Dre Day." 

Per CNN, Johnson is survived by his wife Lexis and three children. Tributes to the beloved actor and comedian poured in on Twitter, including from Ice Cube, who wrote: "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..."