UPDATED: 11:00 p.m. ET —
Thomas “Tiny” Lister Jr., the giant, musclebound actor who rose to fame through his portrayal of neighborhood bully Deebo in the cult classic movie “Friday,” has died. He was 62 years old.
TMZ reported the news of Lister’s death first.
— @Sp0okByTheDoor 👨🏾💻 (@Sp0okByTheDoor) December 11, 2020
Lister, known equally for both his famous grimace as well as his infectious smile, was reportedly found dead Thursday in his apartment in Marina Del Rey, California. After friends and family couldn’t reach him, they requested authorities perform a wellness check at his home.
There was no cause of death immediately reported, but police said they believe he could have died naturally. Autopsy results are pending.
Condolences were pouring in across social media expressing sorrow at the unexpected loss of an iconic figure to so many people who grew up watching Lister on the big and small screens.
Ice Cube, the mastermind behind the 1995 movie, tweeted Thursday night that he missed Lister already.
“RIP Tiny ‘Deebo’ Lister,” Cube tweeted. “America’s favorite bully was a born entertainer who would pop into character at the drop of a hat terrifying people on and off camera. Followed by a big smile and laugh. Thank you for being a good dude at heart. I miss you already.”
RIP Tiny “Deebo” Lister. America’s favorite bully was a born entertainer who would pop into character at the drop of a hat terrifying people on and off camera. Followed by a big smile and laugh. Thank you for being a good dude at heart. I miss you already. pic.twitter.com/jIl8yEZU9c
— Ice Cube (@icecube) December 11, 2020
According to his official bio on IMDB.com, Lister was born June 24, 1958, and grew up in Compton, California. Aside from “Tiny,” his other nicknames were Zeus and The Human Wrecking Machine.
A quote attributed to him underscored the born again Christian’s devotion to his faith: “What’s so cool about God and our government is that you can make a mistake, and they will forgive you if you just a good person and doing right.”
RIP Tiny Lister, aka Deebo, aka Zeus, aka President Lindberg, aka Winston the bail bondsman. One of the greatest movie villains of all time. Without saying a word, his scowl and sneer sent everyone into hiding. No one ever ever looked more terrifying in a Pendleton. What a legend pic.twitter.com/O9EbQHki5k
— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) December 11, 2020
IMDB lists him as having 220 credits as an actor dating back to 1984 when he played a football player on the sitcom, “Webster.” He apparently had nearly a dozen projects that were either completed, in post-production or currently being filmed at the time of his death.
Some of the noteworthy films he appeared in include “The Fifth Element,” “The Dark Knight” and “No Holds Barred,” the latter of which starred pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan in 1989.
“No Holds Barred” led to Lister’s brief career in pro wrestling that saw him reprise his character Zeus from the movie.
He also appeared in multiple music videos, perhaps most famously portraying a bodyguard for Eddie Murphy’s character in Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” in 1992.
Lister’s final social media post from Tuesday paid tribute to a professional football player who was named for his legendary character in “Friday” as well as Ice Cube.
“I see You @19problemz. Deebo Samuels Baddest In the Game,” Lister captioned a video showing Tyshun Raequan “Deebo” Samuel, a pro football player with the san Francisco 49ers. “S/o to Deebo Samuels @19problemz @icecube @bigtinydebo.”
Aside from his muscular physique, one of Lister’s other recognizable traits was what appeared to be his lazy right eye. He explained in an interview with Grantland in 2014 that he was actually blind in that eye and that he overexaggerated his cross-eyed appearance for his acting roles that often involved playing brutes.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound mammoth was a much more killed of an actor that folks gave him credit for, Eric Roberts, a fellow actor who appeared alongside Lister in four movies, said.
“He can go from that innocent look to absolute danger in a blink of an eye,” Roberts said. “When he looks angry, you feel anger.”
Lister is survived by his wife, Felicia Forbes, whom he married in 2003, and their son.
Lister’s death came just days after that of another cult favorite actress, Natalie Desselle-Reid. She died Monday at the age of 52 following a battle with colon cancer. Desselle-Reid helped popularize the term B.A.P.S (Black American Princesses) in a movie of the same name starring alongside Halle Berry in 1997.
This is a developing story and will be updated as additional information becomes available.