Tommy Lister, Actor Who Menaced as Deebo in ‘Friday,’ Is Dead at 62


Tommy Lister, a 6-foot-5-inch actor nicknamed Tiny who played the hulking neighborhood bully Deebo in the “Friday” films, has died at his home in Marina del Rey, Calif. He was 62.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies visited Mr. Lister’s home on Thursday to do a welfare check, urged by friends and business associates who had grown concerned after not hearing from him. Mr. Lister was found dead inside the home, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The department said that Mr. Lister’s death was being investigated and that a cause would be determined by the county medical examiner-coroner’s office, but added that the actor’s death “appears to be of natural causes.”

Cindy Cowan, Mr. Lister’s friend and manager, said in an interview on Friday that by Wednesday night, none of his friends had heard from him for several days. After one of them knocked on his door and got no answer, the person contacted the authorities. “I think we are all shocked,” she said.

Ms. Cowan said that Mr. Lister had struggled with his health after testing positive for the coronavirus several months ago, and that more than a week ago he was unable to keep a meeting at her home because he felt sick and weak. He later told her he was having trouble breathing and was unable to show up to work on a new project last Sunday, Ms. Cowan said.

Mr. Lister’s acting career started in the 1980s, with roles in movies including “Runaway Train,” “Blue City” and “Beverly Hills Cop II,” according to his IMDb profile, which lists more than 250 film and television titles.

Tributes to the actor from co-stars were shared on social media.

Ice Cube, a writer and star of “Friday,” the 1995 comedy that gave Mr. Lister perhaps the signature role of his acting career, praised Mr. Lister as “a born entertainer who would pop into character at the drop of a hat terrifying people on and off camera” before following up with “a big smile and laugh.”

Mr. Lister was also cast as President Lindberg in “The Fifth Element” in 1997, and would joke that he was the “first Black president,” Ms. Cowan said.

He also gathered a following in the world of wrestling, where he was known as Zeus or the Human Wrecking Machine. He appeared with Hulk Hogan in the film “No Holds Barred” in 1989.

Thomas G. Lister Jr. was born on June 24, 1958, in Los Angeles County, according to California birth records.

Keith Lister, a brother of Mr. Lister, said the actor was married to Felicia Forbes and had a daughter, Faith, 12. Other survivors included Mr. Lister’s mother, Mildred Edwards Lister, and his siblings Anthony and Jill.

During public appearances Mr. Lister would often oblige requests from fans to act out a few lines as the character Deebo, jokingly “scaring” them, Ms. Cowan said.

“Then his teddy bear would come out, and he would break into these great, goofy smiles,” she said.



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