The entertainment world lost another one of its popular figures when it was announced that Anthony “AJ” Johnson, 55, had recently joined the ancestral realm. His agent, LyNea Bell, released a statement on Monday revealing that the actor/comedian had passed on Sept. 6 at a Los Angeles hospital, although no cause was given.
“The world of Comedy has truly been shaken, again. Our BH Talent family is heartbroken about the loss of the iconic legend of stage and screen Mr. Anthony ‘AJ’ Johnson,” Bell’s statement reads. “He has left with us amazing memories of his laughter, dynamic acting skills, but most of all his enormous personality and heart of gold.”
Most popularly known for portraying a drug fiend, kleptomaniac named Ezal who haphazardly thwarts a heist in the movie “Friday” (1995) with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. He’s also featured in “House Party” (1990), “Lethal Weapon 3” (1992), “Menace II Society” (1993), “BAPS,” (1997), and “The Players Club” (1998).
In total, he has appeared in over two dozen movies. He’s also acted on several television shows including “Martin,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” and “The Jamie Foxx Show.”
In recent years, he starred in “Office Staff” (2015), and “I Got The Hook Up 2” (2019).
AJ Johnson was born Feb. 1, 1966, in Compton, Calif., where he came of age.
“If you made it out of Compton, you can make it anywhere,” he said in a 2018 interview. “You had to be really careful and watch yourself back in them days.”
He said his father, Eddie Smith, a Hollywood stuntman, informally introduced him to acting by getting him work behind the scenes.
“He told me whenever I’m on camera to always stand out, to do something on camera to make people remember me,” AJ recalled.
During a previous 2013 interview, he revealed that he’d never taken acting classes.
“It’s, like, real easy to act,” he noted. “You just put yourself in the situation that you’re not in, but you really want to be in.”
Expressing diverse talents, he also noted his intent to return to live on-stage acting.
“It’s like doing standup,” he explained. “I love it. I love the theater. That’s where I’m going back.”
He added that actor/comedian Robin Harris, fellow “House Party” featured actor, encouraged him from early on with his stand-up routines.
“I did about three minutes and got booed,” AJ said in 2013. “He told me to go home and make up some jokes. I came back, and the rest is history.”
As the sad news spread, several friends reflected on AJ’s legacy, on social media.
“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.”
Johnson is survived by his wife Lexis, three children, as well as a brother, Edward “Peanut” Smith, sister Sheila, and lifetime manager and friend Mike D.