“Friday” Star Tommy “Tiny” Lister Dead at 62

Gabrielle Meas, Reporter


Tommy Lister Jr

If you ever wanted a 6′ 5,” muscle-bound, broad-length, trimmed actor to play a frightening bodyguard, a soldier of fortune, or a frightening gangster, then Tommy “Small” Lister Jr. was your guy A basketball player turned an actor, who made appearances in about 132 films, first showed up in roles like a prison guard in Runaway Train  (1985), Andy Garcia’s bodyguard in 8 Million Ways, originally a professional wrestler, known as “Zeus” and “ZGangsta” for WWE (formerly WWF), Tiny quit in the mid-1980s to pursue an acting career. He collaborated with some of the best actors and directors in a wide variety of genres, from mystery to science fiction and drama to comedy.

Tommy “Tiny” Lister grew up in Compton, California, but at an early age decided to lift the curses of his generation. He kept away from gang life, opting instead, to sit at home and watch westerns. He preferred religion over wrongdoing, and early on, developed an interest in film and television. Growing up watching Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston, and Errol Flynn, Tiny had a chance to imagine, and he imagined his own life on film and television, making celluloid characters that transcended sex and color. Tiny went out with his will set in stone to make it happen. Tiny made his feature film debut in “Runaway Train” (1985) with Jon Voight and spent the next several years learning the craft and acting in heavy-duty films: “8 Million Ways to Die” (1986) with Andy Garcia, “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987) with Eddie Murphy, and No Holds Barred (1989) with fellow WWE (WWF at the time) wrestler, Hulk Hogan.

In the 1990s, Tiny extended his resume, continuing to make his mark on films with the best in the industry. He joined Johnny Depp and the iconic Marlon Brando in “Don Juan DeMarco” (1994) and collaborated with director Quentin Tarantino and actor Andy Garcia in “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” (1995). He would go on to collaborate with Tarantino in “Jackie Brown again later” (1997). Lister’s career in the 1990s benefited from the decade-long increase in African American cinema, starting with his starring role in Mario Van Peebles’s Western “Posse” (1993), in which he was delighted to star with his childhood idol, Woody Strode. In a move that was sure to boost his popularity with young audiences around the world, Tiny went on to star as the barrister “Deebo” opposite Ice Cube in the cult comedy “Friday” (1995), playing the lead of the hit sequel “Next Friday” (2000). After starring in “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” (1996) by comedian Martin Lawrence, Lister played a supporting role in “The Players Club” (1998), the debut direction of Ice Cube, and starred in “Master P’s I Got The Hook Up” (1998). In several B-horror films, including “Soulkeeper” (2001), “Hellborn” (2003), and “Dracula 3000”, he also appeared (2004).

Tiny continued with his broad, frequently diverse variety of roles, and extended his original roles as a “fierce bodyguard” to include comedy and somewhat quirky performances. He was president of Luc Besson’s science-fiction epic “The Fifth Factor” (1997) in front of Bruce Willis, as well as collaborated with Adam Sandler in “Little Nicky” (2000), as well as Mike Meyers and in Austin Powers in “Goldmember” (2002). Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, and Rachel Weisz joined him in the crime thriller Faith (2003). Tiny has collaborated with some of the greatest directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Luc Besson, and John Frankenheimer, as well as multiple most well-known actors, some including Marlon Brando, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Depp, and Peter O’Toole. He also had a decent share of the top talent in wrestling and rap like Hulk Hogan, 50 Cent, and Tupac Shakur, respectively. His wrestling exploits can be seen in “Summerslam” (1989), “Survivor Series” (1989), and “WWF Superstars” (1986).

Aside from his fame, it was Tiny’s dedication to ministry and public speaking that made the greatest impact. Along with his wife Felicia, Tiny worked around the world, reaching out to troubled children,  and sharing his strong testimony and inspiration in churches and colleges. Tommy “Tiny” Lister may not have been an A-list star, but he was definitely one of Hollywood’s most easily identifiable and busiest actors until his death on December 10, 2020, in Marina del Rey, California. He was 62 years old.