Hardly diminutive, 6′ 5″ Tommy “Tiny” Lister is not just a highly recognizable figure on screen, but also a highly accomplished actor. Originally a professional wrestler known by the names “Zeus” and “ZGangsta” for the WWE (Formerly WWF), Tiny left the world of wrestling in the mid 1980s to pursue an acting career and he has not stopped since. Since his debut as an actor, Tiny has made an impression in over 80 films in a 25-year span, and continues his reputation of working with some of the best actors and directors from a wide net of genres – from thriller to science fiction and drama to comedy.
Tommy “Tiny” Lister grew up in Compton, California, but chose to break the curses of his generation at an early age. He stayed away from gang life, choosing instead to stay at home and watch westerns. He chose religion over wrongdoing, and developed an interest in films and television early. Growing up watching Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston and Errol Flynn allowed Tiny a chance to dream, and he envisioned his own life on film and television, creating characters on celluloid that transcended gender and color. With his will set in stone, Tiny went out to make it possible.
Tiny made his feature film debut in Runaway Train (1985) with Jon Voight, and spent the next few years learning the craft and appearing in films heavy in action and in talent: 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 expanded his resume, continuing to make his mark in films with the best in the business. He joined Johnny Depp and the legendary Marlon Brando in the quirky Don Juan DeMarco (1994) and worked with director Quentin Tarantino and actor Andy Garcia in Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995). He would later work again with Tarantino in Jackie Brown (1997).
Lister’s 1990s career benefited from the decade’s surge in African-American filmmaking, beginning with his starring role in Mario Van Peebles‘s western Posse (1993), in which he was thrilled to star with his childhood idol Woody Strode. In a move that was sure to cement his popularity with young audiences across the country, Tiny went on to star as neighborhood bully “Deebo” opposite Ice Cube in the hit comedy Friday (1995), reprising the role for the successful sequel Next Friday (2000). After appearing in comedian Martin Lawrence‘s A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996), Lister played a supporting role in Ice Cube’s directorial debut The Players Club (1998) and appeared in Master P‘s I Got the Hook Up (1998).
Tiny has continued with his wide, often eclectic range of roles. He played the President in director Luc Besson‘s science fiction epic The Fifth Element (1997) opposite Bruce Willis and worked with Adam Sandler in Little Nicky (2000), as well as Mike Meyers in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002). He joined Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz in the crime thriller Confidence (2003).
Tiny Lister has worked with some of the greatest directors (Quentin Tarantino, Luc Besson, John Frankenheimer), many of our most noted actors (Marlon Brando, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Depp, Peter O’Toole) and a good share of the top talent in wrestling and rap (Hulk Hogan, 50 Cent and Tupac Shakur, respectively) – but it is Tiny’s devotion to ministry and public speaking that makes the biggest impression. Along with his wife Felicia, Tiny now ministers across the country, reaching out to troubled youth, and sharing his powerful testimony and inspiration in churches and schools.
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