Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. died Thursday. The Friday actor and father was reportedly found unresponsive in his home in Marina Del Ray.
According to Variety, Lister had been working on a film project and was forced to cancel his appearance in the production because he began showing symptoms of COVID-19. His death was confirmed by his manager Cindy Cowan.
Lister began his career in the entertainment industry as a professional wrestler using the stage names Zeus, and Z-Gangsta, before becoming an actor. He shifted to acting and his first created role was in 1985 as a guard in Runaway Train.
The Compton, California native would continue adding screen credits to his resume, including parts in Beverly Hills Cop II, The Dark Knight, Jackie Brown, Mann and Wife, Moesha, Players Club, Posse, Zootopia, Little Nicky, Goldmember, The Fifth Element, Star Trek: Enterprise, I Got The Hook Up, and Never Die Alone.
Lister frequently collaborated with rapper, writer, and director Ice Cube.
He perfected the role of the local bully in the classic Friday franchise using his 6 foot 5 stature. Lister’s appearances as Deebo in Friday and Next Friday had a lasting effect on the Black film cannon. His classic scenes including riding a low-rider bike in a threatening manner, snatching a chain off a neighbor, and getting cold-clocked in a streetlight after is often reenacted on social media today.
Those close to him say his menacing on-screen persona was extremely far from his actual personality. “He was a wonderful guy with a heart of gold. Everyone loved him,” said Cowan. “We’re all devastated.”
Ice Cube recalled Lister’s sense of humor in a tribute 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,” he wrote.
“Thank you for being a good dude at heart. I miss you already,” he added.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lister family.