The Friday film franchise spawned a number of lovable characters, including Smokey (played by Chris Tucker), Pops (played by the late John Witherspoon), and Deebo (played by the late Tiny Lister Jr.). But even the smaller roles made a lasting impression.
Anthony “AJ” Johnson, who portrayed the neighborhood crackhead Ezal, made a lasting impression in the 1995 original. But like Witherspoon and Lister, he won’t be making it to another Friday film — if a fourth installment ever does happen.
Anthony Johnson passed away last September at the age of 55 and now, there’s a cause of death. According to TMZ, the actor/comedian died due to “chronic ethanol abuse,” meaning he drank himself to death.
The medical examiner also noted the manner of his death was “natural” and no alcohol or common drugs of abuse came up in his toxicology test. And while the coroner’s office found he’d recently tested positive for COVID-19, there were no signs of pneumonia at the time of death either. Johnson’s widow Lexis Jones Mason wants people to know the dangers of drinking and plans to teach teenagers at her church about the potential outcomes of substance abuse.
Johnson was recently the recipient of an elaborate headstone courtesy of “Cemetery Tim,” who designed both Nate Dogg and Eazy-E’s grave markers. The gravestone commemorates Johnson’s career with photos of him as Ezal from Friday and E.Z.E. in House Party. The inscription reads, “Don’t cry for me, I lived and made your ass laugh … tell me I’m lying!” Mason worked closely with Cemetery Tim on the design and made sure it included Johnson’s signature.
Cemetery Tim shared a photo of the birthday gift to his Instagram account on February 1 with the caption, “Happy Birthday AJ. Thank you for all the laughs and memories Brother. Today we set his headstone in Rose Hills Cemetery.”
Johnson’s Friday co-star Ice Cube was among the many celebrities paying their respects on Twitter. As the news of Johnson’s death made the rounds, Cube re-tweeted DJ Pooh’s clip of Johnson in the film and expressed his sorrow in the caption.
“Sad to wake up to the news about AJ Johnson passing away,” he wrote. “Naturally funny dude who straight outta Compton at the same time. Sorry I couldn’t bring your character Ezal back to the big screen in Last Friday.”