With muscle-bound arms bulging from his sleeveless tank tops, a mohawk, and enough gold jewelry to enrich a small nation, gruff, tough Mr. T was certainly one of the most recognizable television stars of the early '80s. Though more of a personality than a bona fide actor, he has appeared in several features, but is best known for playing no-nonsense ex-soldier B.A. Baracus on the hit action-drama The A-Team (1983-1987). Prior to that, Mr. T had played character roles in four feature films.
Born Lawrence Tureaud in a tough southside Chicago project, he was the second youngest of 12 siblings. His father abandoned the family when Tureaud was five, leaving his mother to raise her huge family alone in a three-bedroom apartment on less than 100 dollars a month from welfare. Tureaud was devoted to his mother, and though he got into a little trouble during early adolescence, straightened himself out so as not to shame her by getting thrown in jail. Following graduation from Dunbar Vocational High School, Tureaud attended college. His football skills landed him a scholarship to Prairie View A & M University in Texas, but he was expelled after one year. Tureaud qualified for other sports scholarships and so continued his education until joining the Army and serving as a military policeman. Following his discharge, he was recruited by the Green Bay Packers, but suffered a serious knee injury and so became a bodyguard for stars such as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. He also worked as a bouncer. In 1970, he changed his name to Lawrence Tero and shortly thereafter shortened it to Mr. T. In the mid-'70s, he worked as a gym teacher in Chicago. It was Sylvester Stallone who offered him his first acting job after Stallone saw the beefy black bouncer on the TV show Games People Play. Stallone was so impressed by Mr. T's agile strength that he cast him in Rocky III (1982). Mr. T was at his peak popularity, particularly with young boys, while on The A-Team. At one point a toy company even created a Mr. T action figure. He also had a breakfast cereal named after him. Following his series' demise, Mr. T's acting career has been sporadic. Over the course of the next few decades, small roles in film (Not Another Teen Movie) and television (Martin, Malcolm and Eddie) helped the amiable tough guy remain a recognizable pop culture icon, but in 2011 Mr. T began hosting World's Craziest Fools, an irreverent, clip-based show featuring criminal blunders and side-splitting mishaps captured on amateur video footage and CCTV.