Astounding Things You Didn't Know About Mr. T
Nearly four decades after emerging onto the scene, Mr. T remains as iconic as ever. From his signature looks to his memorable catchphrase, the actor and former wrestler is instantly recognizable by audiences both young and old. Despite his renown, there’s a lot that many people don’t know about the star. Whether it be his humble beginnings or the origin of his quintessential style, Mr. T and his unique tough-guy persona are in fact quite multifaceted.
The Origin of Mr. T's Name
Mr. T was born Lawrence Tureaud on May 21 of 1952. Born a minister's son, he and his four sisters and seven brothers all bore the surname until their father abandoned them just five years after Lawrence’s birth. As an act of silent rebellion against his dad, he shortened his name to Lawrence Tero.
Mr. T's Adolescence
All 12 Tureaud children lived in a single three-bedroom apartment in the Robert Taylor Homes of Chicago, Illinois. A public housing project in Bronzeville on the south side of the city, the building was named after the first African-American chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority (and activist) Robert Rochon Taylor.
Mr. T's Life After High School
Thanks to his football skills, Lawrence Tureaud (now Mr. T) earned a scholarship to play ball for Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. At the historically Black public university, Mr. T majored in mathematics until he was expelled after freshman year.
The Origin of Mr. T's Jewelry
He might have been Mr. T by name, but after failing to make it into the NFL, he was far from the person he would soon become. Left with nowhere to turn, Mr. T started working as a bouncer for a club called Dingbats on Chicago’s North Side.
Behind Mr. T's Iconic Hairstyle
When looking through an issue of National Geographic, Mr. T was floored by the hairstyles of West Africa’s Mandinka warriors. Inspired by what he had seen, he decided that he, too, would adopt a similar hairstyle as a way to honor his African heritage.
Inventing Mr. T's Persona
Now in possession of the eventual-classic Mr. T moniker and looks, all he needed was the attitude. This came naturally with being a bouncer. Responsible for keeping drug dealers and users out of Dingbats, Mr. T claims to have gotten in over 200 fights without ever losing one.
Mr. T's Budding Celebrity Status
Almost 10 years in, Mr. T was practically a bodyguard brand name. Toward the end of his bodyguarding career, celebrities such as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali all trusted him (and paid him anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 a day) to keep them safe from harm.
Mr. T on America's Toughest Bouncer
A competition on NBC’s Sunday Games turned out to be the key to Mr. T’s success. Subtitled America’s Toughest Bouncer, the program saw contestants attempting tasks like breaking through a thick wooden door and throwing 150-pound stuntmen.
His Breakout Role
At first, Sylvester Stallone only intended for Mr. T to have a few lines of dialogue in his third Rocky film — nothing more than a bit part. Once Stallone actually spent time with him, though, it was clear Mr. T belonged in the role of the primary antagonist: Clubber Lang.
Mr. T on the A-Team
A year after Rocky III, Mr. T was given another leading role: that of ex-Army commando Sergeant Bosco Albert "B.A." Baracus on NBC’s The A-Team (1983–1987). The show follows four men, all ex-military, on the run from the U.S. government for a crime they didn’t commit.
The same year The A-Team premiered, NBC also invested in a Ruby-Spears-produced, Scooby-Doo-style cartoon starring the actor called Mister T. Playing a stylized version of himself, the animated version of Mr. T owned a gym and helped train gymnasts to solve mysteries and fight crimes alongside him.
Mr. T in D.C. Cab
Also in 1983, Mr. T earned the starring role in what remains the only movie to put the actor in the spotlight solo: D.C. Cab. The film features Mr. T in the leading role and an ensemble of celebrity cameos like Gary Busey, Adam Baldwin, stand-up comedian Paul Rodriguez and bodybuilders the Barbarian Brothers.
Mr. T's Motivational Speaking Career
Given his hugely intimidating stature, it was only a matter of time for Mr. T to try his luck at motivational speaking. As it turns out, this was just another one of his callings in life. Debuting in 1984, Be Somebody...or Be Somebody’s Fool! was very successful.
Mr. T's Albums
Coming off the success of Be Somebody...or Be Somebody’s Fool!, Mr. T doubled down on home media with the release of Mr. T’s Commandments. In a similar vein as Be Somebody..., the album instructed children to keep away from drugs and stay in school.
Mr. T's Professional Wrestling Career
Thanks to his success across multiple fields, Mr. T was easily able to make the transition to professional wrestling in 1985. Starting out as Hulk Hogan’s tag-team partner in the World Wrestling Federation’s inaugural Wrestlemania, Mr. T is often credited as the sole reason why Wrestlemania I succeeded.
Mr. T Cereal
When a celebrity is big, many corporations leap at the opportunity to license the celeb’s name and likeness. In Mr. T’s case, that meant allowing the Quaker Oats Company to create Mr. T Cereal in 1984. In fact, it was the very first cereal the company ever manufactured.
The Lake Forest Chainsaw Massacre
Mr. T’s notoriety wasn’t limited exclusively to the big screen or TV. No, as a matter of fact, at least to his neighbors in Lake Forest, Illinois, Mr. T was just as intimidating and destructive in real life.
Mr. T on T. and T.
Piggybacking on the success of The A-Team and Mister T, Canada chose to enlist the actor for a show of its own in the wake of The A-Team’s final season. Titled T. and T., the program ran for three years between 1987 and 1990 and tallied up 65 episodes.
Mr. T's Cancer Scare
Due to health problems, the 1990s saw Mr. T drastically reduce his public appearances. Diagnosed with cancer — specifically T-cell lymphoma — in 1995, the actor limited himself to the occasional television commercial. With a schedule like this, Mr. T could spend a day or two shooting an ad and the rest of the week focusing on recovering.
Mr. T's Career in Commercials
After fully recovering from T-cell lymphoma in the mid-90s, Mr. T continued to book television commercial on top of television commercial instead of returning to acting. As it turns out, the laid-back nature of advertisement shoots was preferable for the actor (then in his late 40s by 2000).
Mr. T's Cameo Appearances
Despite focusing on commercials, Mr. T still managed to prioritize a TV or film cameo here and there. Reducing his participation to mere walk-on roles only furthered his status as a timeless icon. Mr. T added another skill to his résumé: impeccable comedic timing.
Mr. T's Chains Come Off
When the U.S. was hit by Hurricane Katrina, no one could have imagined the wide-ranging scope of the damage. With homes and businesses destroyed across the coast, the natural disaster was a tragedy. The nation, including Mr. T, stopped everything to help the victims.
Mr. T's Reality Show
During the commercial- and cameo-fueled Mr. T renaissance of the mid-2000s, TV Land — the cable network geared toward nostalgic older audiences — decided to lure the actor back to the silver screen. Instead of acting, though, TV Land convinced Mr. T to transition to reality television.
Mr. T in 21st Century Films
With his commercial appearances still going strong but his television appearances slowing to a crawl, studio executives tried to bring Mr. T back to the feature-film industry. First, the actor was offered a cameo in The A-Team’s feature film adaptation alongside his co-stars, but he turned it down. Ultimately, the show’s stars didn’t even make the final cut.
Mr. T's British Clip Show
Like his Canadian television series might suggest, Mr. T found fame far outside the boundaries of the United States. In fact, the actor is quite famous in the United Kingdom. As a result, British television network BBC Three gave the star his own clip show from 2011 to 2013.
Mr. T's Failed Projects
Of all the projects Mr. T’s name has been attached to throughout the years, not every one of them was lucky enough to be successful. Quite a few never even made it past the drawing board.
Mr. T on Dancing With the Stars
Mr. T is undoubtedly a huge star, so it makes sense that he was eventually sought out for ABC’s hit dance competition series Dancing With the Stars in 2017. One of the last high-profile jobs for the ‘80s superstar, Mr. T was partnered up with Kym Herjavec during the show’s 24th season.
Mr. T's Later Years
Now in his late 60s, Mr. T lives the life he deserves. It’s the final transition for him: After a lifetime of hard work across film, television, sports and stage, the ‘80s icon now lives as a born-again Christian with a loving family and a comfortable lifestyle.
Mr. T Today
In 2019, not much is seen or heard from Mr. T. He experienced a brief resurgence in popularity when the Snapchat-style Mr. T App was released in the mid-2010s, but — as with most things online — the chatter died down in no time at all.