Tom Lister Jr. is an American actor and an occasional wrestler best known for his supporting roles in films such as ‘Friday’ and ‘The Fifth Element.’ Born in Arkansas and raised in California, Tom grew up with blindness in his right eye, which was a birth defect. He grew up in a very shady black neighbourhood but he somehow avoided the life of crime and drugs by indulging in religion and watching films at an early age. He excelled in sports during his high school and college years. A scholarship he earned for sports had him attending California State University, where he further excelled in shot put throw. He made his acting debut in 1984, playing a small role in the television series titled ‘1st & Ten’ and in the next year, he made his film debut with a supporting role in the film titled ‘Runaway Train.’ During the course of his career, he has played character roles in films such as ‘Friday,’ ‘The Fifth Element,’ ‘Jackie Brown’ and ‘Little Nicky.’ Apart from his film and television roles, he also wrestled briefly from 1989 to 1996. His best known wrestling feud was with WWF superstar Hulk Hogan.
Childhood & Early Life
Tom Lister Jr. was born Thomas Lister Jr., on June 24, 1958, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Tommy and Mildred Faye Lister. Ever since his birth, he had a deformed and detached retina in his right eye, causing permanent blindness. His father worked as a truck driver while his mother was a housewife.
Soon after he was born, the family moved to Compton, California. The neighbourhoods that he lived in during his childhood were dominated by bad elements and hence the crime rates were much higher.
During his formative years, Tom could have easily embraced that life but instead, he chose to stay at home and watch films. He also grew up as a religious person and religion remained a key part of his life throughout.
He was a huge fan of western films and took inspiration from Frank Capra. Indulging a lot in watching all kinds of films had him wanting to become an actor ever since he was young.
Following his high school graduation, he enrolled into Palomar Junior College and transferred to the Long Beach City College for his sophomore year. He was into athletics at that time and played in his college’s shot put teams.
Scholarship he earned via shot put throw had him enrolling into California State University in Los Angeles, where he continued with the game. During his senior year, he won the national shot put title. He was named the 1982 NCAA Division II National Shot Put Champion.
Following his college graduation, he pursued football and shot put for some time, before making up his mind about being an actor. He thus began auditioning for roles in films and television.
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Tom Lister began his acting career in 1984, playing a small role as Otis in the 1984 film titled ‘1st & Ten.’ He followed it in the next year, with a minor role as a security guard named Jackson in the independent action thriller film titled ‘Runaway Train.’
In the next few years, he appeared playing many small roles in films such as ‘Blue City,’ ‘Prison,’ ‘Think Big’ and ‘Extreme Prejudice.’ He went on having his major acting breakthrough in 1995 when he appeared in the Ice Cube starrer film titled ‘Friday.’
He played a neighbourhood bully named Deebo in the film ‘Friday,’ which was a huge critical and commercial success. The success of the film paved way for a sequel titled ‘Next Friday’ and had Tom reprising his role as Deebo. The second film was also a success. Tom did not appear in the third film of the series.
As for his television career, Tom appeared playing many guest roles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in series’ such as ‘Perfect Strangers,’ ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Renegade.’
He worked more in films during the course of his acting career. But he struggled to get meaty parts in the films that he worked in. In the mid-1990s, he appeared playing small/supporting roles in films such as ‘Barb Wire,’ ‘Phat Beach’ and ‘Gang Related.’ He also appeared playing a supporting role in the Quentin Tarantino directed film titled ‘Jackie Brown.’
He carried on in 2000s with minor roles in films such as ‘Confidence,’ ‘Dracula 3000,’ ‘Never Die Alone,’ ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Monster Ark.’ Meanwhile, his television stints had significantly reduced in the 2000s.
More recently, Tom has appeared in films such as ‘White T,’ ‘Hickey’ and ‘Busy Day.’ He also appeared playing a voice role in the film titled ‘Zootopia,’ landing his voice to a character named Finnick.
He has also appeared in music videos for artists such as Akon, Michael Jackson and 50 Cent.
Tom’s wrestling career began somewhat accidentally. He appeared playing a wrestler in the film titled ‘No Holds Barred’ in the late 1980s. The film starred famous wrestler Hulk Hogan and was produced by the World Wrestling Federation. Tom’s character of Zeus in the film was acclaimed and he ended up making an appearance in the real life WWF ring.
Tom would copy his moves from his film character in the real life and eventually began a feud with Hulk Hogan. Tom teamed up with Randy Savage and faced Hulk Hogan in the SummerSlam 1989 in a tag team match, which Hulk and his partner Brutus BeefCake easily won.
The feud continued during the survivor series where Tom faced another defeat. The feud finally ended in a steel cage match in 1989, which Hulk and BeefCake easily won. Following this defeat, Tom took a retirement from WWF.
However, he wrestled briefly in the World Wrestling Council and the World Championship Wrestling after retiring from WWF.
Family & Personal Life
Tom Lister Jr. dated Jennifer Humpage for quite some time in the early 2000s, before getting married to her in 2004. The couple has a son named Thomas Duane Lister III.
Tom married Felicia Forbes in January 26, 2003)
In August 2012, Tom pled guilty to a mortgage fraud. He has since been freed on bail and said that mistakes can be forgiven by the God and the American government for people who are ‘good.’
He has been a very religious person since his younger years as a devout Christian. He is a member of a Christian church named The Light of the World and appears frequently in the faith based networks and gives lectures in churches and other religious functions all over the country.