Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, who played Deebo in the Friday films, dies at 62

Tommy Lister was diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this year but had recovered

The Associated Press December 11, 2020 10:39:57 IST
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, who played Deebo in the Friday films, dies at 62

Tommy Lister. Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Tommy “Tiny” Lister, a former professional wrestler who was known for his bullying Deebo character in the Friday films, has died. He was 62.

Lister’s manager, Cindy Cowan, said he was found unconscious in his home in Marina Del Rey, California, on Thursday afternoon. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cowan said Lister was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year. She said the actor overcame the virus, but he became sick about a week ago and recently had trouble breathing.

The cause of death has not been released, and the coroner’s office is investigating.

“He was a gentle giant,” Cowan said. “He had a smile as broad as you could imagine. He’s going to be missed by so many. We’re all devastated.”

Lister started his career as a pro wrestler, standing 6-foot-5 with broad shoulders at about 275 pounds. His early roles included the HBO football series 1st & Ten along with movie appearances in Beverly Hills Cop II, which starred Eddie Murphy, and No Holds Barred, the 1989 film where his character Zeus challenged Hulk Hogan in a wrestling match.

The actor, who was blind in his right eye since birth, wrestled Hogan in the World Wrestling Federation in an actual match after the No Holds Barred film release. He also had a short stint in the World Championship Wrestling under the name Z-Gangsta.

However, Lister’s most notable role came in the 1995 film Friday and its sequel five years later. He portrayed the role of Deebo, a felon who was known as the neighborhood bully who terrorized his neighbors with intimidation and fear. His character was known for his infamous line “Get knocked out like your father used to.”

“RIP Tiny “Deebo” Lister,” Ice Cube said Thursday night on Instagram. “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.”

Lister also appeared in The Fifth Element, The Dark Knight, and Austin Powers in Goldmember.

“WWE is saddened to learn that Tom “Tiny” Lister, known as Zeus to the WWE Universe, passed away today,” the WWE said in a tweet.

The Compton, California, native was a track and field star who became the 1982 NCAA Division II shotput champion while he attended Cal State University Los Angeles. He briefly played football with the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League.

“One of the nicest bullies we’ve come across. RIP Deebo,” the San Francisco 49ers said on Twitter. Deebo Samuel, a 49ers wide receiver, got his nickname from Lister’s character.

The death was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.

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