Tommy “Tiny” Lister, well known for his roles as Deebo in “Friday” and President Lindberg in “The Fifth Element,” died Dec. 10, 2020 in his Marina del Rey, CA. home.
Reports stated that Lister was in the middle of filming a movie when he canceled shooting because he fell ill. Reports also stated that he’d displayed symptoms of COVID-19, an infection he thought he’d beat after allegedly being diagnosed with it months ago, in the days leading up to his death.
His manager, Cindy Cowan, said he was found unconscious in his home.
The 6’5” Compton, CA native won the national shot put competition in college and played football a short while before getting into acting. Lister began his acting career playing a football player in the 1980s sitcom “Webster.” That role led him to other television jobs including appearances on “Perfect Strangers” and made-for-tv films like “Warm Hearts, Cold Feet.” He also played football player “Otis” in more than two dozen episodes of the ’80s HBO comedy “1st & Ten.”
Lister’s profile rose when he played opposite Hulk Hogan in the film “No Holds Barred” as the character named Zeus. To hype the movie he appeared in several episode of WWF Challenger and Saturday Night’s Main Event. He would later work for World Championship Wrestling under the name Z-Gangsta.
Throughout the 1900s, Lister’s profile rose with bit parts in shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “ER,” “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Martin” leading up to his breakout role as Deebo in “Friday.” The film raised his profile even more and the Deebo character is regularly sourced for internet memes and quoted by fans of the movie. “The Fifth Element” followed among other subsequent films. He also appeared in music videos for rappers Ice Cube, 50 Cent, French Montana and Chamillionaire as well as videos for 1990s rock group Sublime.
Ice Cube, who directed “Friday,” took to social media to honor a colleague and a friend.
“RIP Tiny ‘Deebo’ Lister,” wrote Cube on Twitter. “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.”