Anthony “AJ” Johnson, best known for his role as Ezal in the hit “Friday” comedy franchise, died at the age of 55.
LyNea Bell, Johnson’s publicist, confirmed the comedian’s death, though the cause of death was not revealed.
“We lost an icon. He will be greatly missed,” Bell told the Hollywood Reporter. “He has left with us amazing memories of his laughter, dynamic acting skills, but most of all his enormous personality and heart of gold.”
Johnson appeared in a number of successful feature films, including Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s “House Party,” “Menace II Society,” “Lethal Weapon 3,” “The Players Club,” “I Got The Hook Up,” and “B.A.P.S.” with Halle Berry. Guest appearances on “Martin” with Martin Lawrence and “Malcolm & Eddie,” to name a few of his hilarious contributions, are among his television credits.
The stand-up comedian from Compton, California, got a break when he was cast as E.Z.E. in the 1990 film “House Party,” alongside Kid n’ Play rappers Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin, and DJ Mark “Wiz” Eastmond. Johnson reprised his role in the third installment of “House Party.”
His most memorable role was as petty criminal Ezal in the 1995 film “Friday,” which launched the high-living franchise starring rapper Ice Cube, who also co-wrote the film, and comedian Chris Tucker.
According to his official IMDB page, he was rumored to be set to reprise his signature role of Ezal in an upcoming sequel, “Last Friday,” at the time of his death.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s untimely death has sparked a social media outpouring of grief.
“Rest in peace, Anthony Johnson.” Folded hands….some of the most quotable lines in the original Friday were his,” wrote the popular Twitter account Wu-Tang Is For The Children, which has received nearly 2,000 likes for sharing an iconic clip from “Friday” in which the character Ezal demonstrates his convenience store slip scam.
Fans continued to praise Johnson’s quotability, with one commenting, “more in one movie than a lot of people’s careers.”
Many friends and family members survive Johnson, according to Bell, and “we will be in constant prayer for his entire family, including his wife Lexis, three children, brother Edward “Peanut” Smith, sister Sheila, and lifetime manager and friend Mike D.” Please. Give them the time they need to process and grieve such a huge loss.”