John Amos on Men in Trees, and Good Times
Everybody knows the dad from Good Times. But did you know that the actor who plays him actually got his big break on the Mary Tyler Moore Show? Well, we're here to remind you, as we walk with John Amos down memory lane past all the roles that have lead him to his current gig, the lovable pilot Buzz on ABC's Men in Trees (Thursdays at 10 pm/ET).

Meteorologist Gordy Howard on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-1973
"When [producers] told me they were going to bring me on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I felt like I'd hit the lottery. I had two very young children then. We were living in Topanga Canyon paying $140-a-month rent. Getting to play Gordy was a blessing because the writing was so good, and I didn't have to do buffoonery-type humor. Gordy was a meteorologist, alhough Cloris Leachman's character, Phyllis, assumed he was a sportscaster. The subject of race never came up. I like that. Producers Jim Brooks and Allan Burns made a statement about equality and intelligence without ever having made a statement. My favorite episode was the one where Ted Knight found out Gordy had relocated to New York and was making a king's ransom, including a free wardrobe with the best suits and sports jackets in the world. That just about broke Ted's heart. I was very happy with the Gordy character and, had I become a regular, I probably would have passed on Good Times."

Stern dad James Evans Sr. on Good Times, 1974-1976
"At times it was a tumultuous set because I was fighting for script quality. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why they kept perpetuating J.J. (Jimmie Walker) and this buffoon image when James had two other gifted children — Michael, who aspired to be a Supreme Court justice, and Thelma, who wanted to become a doctor or a surgeon. But I wasn't the most tactful, diplomatic guy in those days. Talk about then and now! Well, if I were in that situation now, where I objected to the way characters were being portrayed, I would sit down with producers over a cup of chamomile tea and a couple of Prozac and explain why I had objections. But at that time I was all about confrontation. I'd come out of football and had been in boxing, and everything to me was best settled in the school yard."

Percy Fitzwallace on The West Wing, 1999-2004
"By the time I was on West Wing, things had improved considerably. My kids were grown. My son K.C. had been nominated for a Grammy, and Shannon had acquired a certain amount of respect as an executive at Sony. And, of course, by then I had a granddaughter.... My fix on Fitzwallace [chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] is that he's college-educated, but he'd come up through the ranks, earned every one of those battle ribbons and commendations. He was a very secure man. What that did for me as an actor, once I put that uniform on, I refused to defer to anyone in the cast. Because he was the chairman of the joint chiefs! [Laughs] It was a military thing."

Elmo's only pilot, Buzz, on Men in Trees, September 2006-Present
"Buzz is probably the most comfortable character I've ever done. He's more John Amos than any of them. He's not poor, he's not rich, he's not chasing after every woman in town. He's happy to be with the wife he's with. And I like that his biggest passion is flying, and that he loves the freedom and the fact that he's got a key role in transporting people in and out of Elmo, Alaska. It makes him feel like he's an important link to the outside world. And he is. I like that the character's got a history and he's not everything he appears to be. These characters are like onions — we could peel these layers back for the next three, four or five years. And it's all going to be interesting to me. Like life, I don't want to know what's coming."

What tragic twist does Men in Trees' lead-in, Grey's Anatomy, have in the works? Check out the Ausiello Report in the Jan. 22 issue of TV Guide.

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