The reason why Shirley and Rerun from "What's Happening!!" were afraid to lose weight has been revealed years after the end of the show, and the reason is heartbreaking.
Artists from "What's Happening!!" were a bit larger than other actors and actresses during their time, and they were cast in the show for that very reason. Their weight was something that allowed them to enter Hollywood, and it turns out they were trying to keep it that way.
According to "Good Times" writer Bob Pete, African-American actors get jobs for specific reasons, and if they got their because of their weight, they'll stay that way because that's what they do for a living.
"If they get a job because they're [larger], chances are they'll stay [larger]."
Many large actors felt as if their careers depended on how big they were, and that meant losing thier sources of living if they lost too much weight. Now, Fred "Rerun" Berry and Shirley Hemphill from "What's Happening!!" reveal their personal experiences on balancing their weight in Hollywood.
During the peak of his career, Rerun was 5'5" and 240 pounds. He was one of the most sought-after African-American actors at the time. In the late '70s, he hoped to go down to 180 pounds, but nothing less than that because he did not want to lose his acting jobs. After all, it's his weight that he's known for aside from his acting abilities.
Likewise, Shirley was 211 pounds while filming "What's Happening!!," but she also wanted to slim down. However, she didn't want to lose too much weight as this would most definitely affect her career.
"I don't want to lose too much weight too fast because I don't want the audience to be disturbed."
These actors put their craft above anything else, and this was so that they could have something to feed their families with. They put their health second, hoping to keep their fanbases on their sides throughout their careers.