John Witherspoon has died aged 77.
The comedy actor – who is best-known for playing Willie Jones in the Friday film franchise – passed away at his home in Sherman Oaks, California, on Tuesday, October 29, with his family describing the comedian as “one of the hardest working men in show business”.
“John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home.”— Actor’s family
In a statement given to Deadline, the family said: “It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks.
“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. John used to say ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was huge deal to us.”
Witherspoon first emerged on the stand-up comedy scene in the 1970s, when he also befriended some of the most popular comics of the era.
He subsequently starred in the 1995 movie Friday, alongside the likes of Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, as well as its sequels, Next Friday and Friday After Next.
Other movie roles included appearances in Hollywood Shuffle, Boomerang and Vampire In Brooklyn, which also featured Eddie Murphy.
Elsewhere, Witherspoon played the father to Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans on the popular sitcom The Wayans Bros, which ran from 1995 until 1999.
The comedy star also appeared on The Tracy Morgan Show, Barnaby Jones, The Boondocks, The Five Heartbeats and Black Jesus. Witherspoon is survived by his wife Angela Robinson and their two children, John David and Alexander.