Tommy “Tiny” Lister, who rocketed to fame playing the lovable bully “Deebo” in the classic 1995 film Friday, was found unresponsive in his suburban Los Angeles apartment, his manager Cindy Cowan confirmed to Yahoo! Entertainment.
Lister was 62.
Law enforcement officials did a welfare check on Lister on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, at about 3 p.m. because friends and business associates became concerned after they had not heard from Lister since Wednesday night.
Los Angeles County authorities entered his apartment in Marina Del Rey, a picturesque coastal community sandwiched between Venice and Los Angeles, and found Lister unconscious. He was not transported to the hospital but pronounced dead at the scene. First responders released their report stating that there were no signs of foul play and suspect that Lister may have died of natural causes.
But Cowan said that Lister had just withdrawn from a movie he was shooting after displaying symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus. An autopsy will be performed to determine the official cause of death.
Friday creator and star Ice Cube saluted his lost friend on Twitter:
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
Lister was a native of Compton, California, and went on to shot-putting and football in college before transitioning to acting.
Lister played a variety of roles during his long acting career, including a gunslinger in Posse, a tough guy in Player’s Club (Ice Cube’s directorial debut), a president in Fifth Element, voiceover work in Zootopia and also played in the blockbuster The Dark Knight.
Lister leveraged his hulking 6-foot-5-inch frame and intimidating persona into two profitable wrestling stints, once playing the bad guy Zeus alongside the legendary Hulk Hogan.
According to the International Movie Database, Lister had been playing bad guys and bullies since the late 1980s. But it was the Ice Cube-written and -directed classic Friday that transformed Lister into a cultural icon. He reprised that role in the sequel Friday After Next.
Lister had become so popular that he also appeared in the videos of a number of hip-hop heavyweights, including Ice Cube as well as 50 Cent, French Montana, Chamillionaire and Young Bleed.
Most heartwarming to fans is that he used his cultural cachet to do philanthropic acts regularly, particularly during the tumult of 2020.
Flip the page to view a clip of his most famous role as “Deebo” in the seminal comedy Friday.