Mr. T (born Laurence Tureaud; May 21, 1952) is an American actor known
for his roles as B. A. Baracus in the 1980s television series The A-Team, as
boxer Clubber Lang in the 1982 film Rocky III, and for his appearances as a
professional wrestler. Mr. T is also well-known for his distinctive mohawk
hairstyle, for wearing large amounts of gold jewelry, and for his tough guy
image. He starred in the reality show I Pity the Fool, shown on TV Land, the
title of which comes from his Rocky III catchphrase.
Mr. T was born Laurence Tureaud in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest boy in a family with twelve children. His father, Nathaniel Tureaud Sr., was a minister. Tureaud, with his four sisters and seven brothers, grew up in one of the city's housing projects, Robert Taylor Homes.
Tureaud attended Paul Lawrence Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, where he played football, wrestled, and studied martial arts. He won a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, but was thrown out after a year. Tureaud also attended several small Chicago area colleges on athletic scholarships. After leaving school, Tureaud became a military policeman in the U.S. Army, before trying out for the NFL football team Green Bay Packers.
Tureaud worked as a bouncer after he returned from the army. It was at this time that he created the persona of "Mr. T." His wearing of gold neck chains and other jewelry was the result of customers losing the items, leaving them behind at the bar/night club after a fight, or being removed from the place. A customer would not have to re-enter or even have to see anyone else again if Mr. T wore their jewelry as he stood out front. When a customer came back, their item was readily visible and available with no further confrontations required. Often, the "former" customers did not return. Mr. T thus built up a large collection and earned a reputation for wearing many gold neck chains and bracelets.
Mr. T managed eventually to parlay his job as a bouncer into a career as a bodyguard to the stars that lasted almost ten years. He protected well-known personalities like Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Leon Spinks, Joe Frazier and Diana Ross, charging $3,000 per day.
As a bodyguard, Tureaud's business card read, "Next to God, there is no greater protector than I." Mr. T claimed that he never lost a client, saying, "I got hurt worse growing up in the ghetto than working as a bodyguard." A bald-headed Mr. T can be seen on film accompanying Joe Frazier to the ring in Frazier's rematch against George Foreman in 1976.
While reading National Geographic, Mr. T first noticed the unusual hairstyle, for which he is now famous, on a Mandinka warrior. Mr. T decided that adoption of the style would be a powerful statement about his African origin. It was a simpler, safer and more permanent visual signature than his gold chains, rings, and bracelets. The gold jewelry was worth about $300,000 at the time and took him about an hour to put on. Most nights, Mr. T spent even more time cleaning them using an ultrasonic cleaner. Occasionally, he would sleep with the heavy neck chains and bracelets on, "to see how my ancestors, who were slaves, felt."
In 1980, Mr. T was spotted by Sylvester Stallone while taking part in NBC's "America's Toughest Bouncer" competition—a segment of NBC's "Games People Play." His role in Rocky III was originally intended as just a few lines. His catchphrase, "I pity the fool!", comes from the film, in which he played a boxer facing Rocky Balboa. When asked if he hated Rocky, he replied, "No, I don't hate Balboa, but I pity the fool." Subsequently, after losing out on the role of the title character's mentor in The Beastmaster, Mr. T appeared in another boxing film, Penitentiary 2, and on and episode of Showtime's early sketch comedy series Bizarre, where he fights and eats Super Dave Osborne), before accepting a television series role on The A-Team.
Mr. T appeared in an episode of Silver Spoons, reprising his old role as bodyguard to Ricky Stratton. In the episode, he explains his name as "First name: Mister; middle name: period; last name T." In one scene, when Ricky's class erupts into a paper ball throwing melee, Mr. T throws his body in front of the objects, fully protecting his client. In The A-Team, he played Sergeant Bosco "B.A." Baracus (B.A. is an abbreviation of "Bad Attitude" as well as "Bosco Albert"), an ex-army commando on the run with three other members from the U.S. government "for a crime they didn't commit." When asked at a press conference whether Mr. T was as stupid as B.A. Baracus, he observed quietly, "It takes a smart guy to play dumb."
A Ruby-Spears produced cartoon called Mister T premiered in 1983 on NBC. The Mister T cartoon starred Mr. T as himself, the owner of a gym where a group of gymnasts trained. He would help them with their training but they would also help him solve mysteries and fight crime. Thirty episodes were produced.
In 1984, Mr. T made a motivational video called Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool!. He gives helpful advice to children throughout the video; for example, he teaches them how to understand and appreciate their origins, how to dress fashionably without buying designer labels, how to make tripping up look like breakdancing, how to control their anger, and how to deal with peer pressure. The video is roughly one hour long, but contains 30 minutes of singing, either by the group of children accompanying him, or by Mr. T himself. He sings "Treat Your Mother Right (Treat Her Right)", in which he enumerates the reasons why it is important to treat your mother right, and also raps a song about growing up in the ghetto and praising God. The raps in this video were written by Ice T. That same year he released a related rap album titled Mr. T's Commandments. Also in 1984, he starred in the film, The Toughest Man in the World.
In 1988, Mr. T starred in the television series T. and T.. Mr. T was once reported to be earning around $80,000 a week for his role in The A-Team and getting $15,000 for personal appearances, but by the end of the 1990s, he was appearing only in the occasional commercial, largely because of health problems. (In 1995, he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma.) He frequently appears on the TBN Christian television series. He has appeared in commercials for MCI's 1-800-COLLECT collect-call service and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. He has also appeared on some Comcast commercials, and in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand during 2007, advertising the chocolate bar Snickers with the slogan "Get Some Nuts!". One of these commercials, featuring Mr. T crashing through a wall on the back of flat-bed truck before firing Snickers bars at a speed walker wearing tight-fitting yellow shorts, was pulled by Mars following a complaint by the US-based group Human Rights Campaign, despite the fact that the advert had never been shown outside the UK. The group alleged that the commercial promoted the idea that violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people "is not only acceptable, but humorous".
Mr. T appeared in a popular commercial for the Oregon Lottery which parodied the current popularity of reality TV shows. The commercial was a satire, in which Mr. T starred in a fictitious reality show entitled Who can spend 30 days in a trailer with Mr. T.
Mr. T did a video campaign for Hitachi's Data Systems that was created and posted on consumer video sites including YouTube and Yahoo! Video. According to Steven Zivanic, senior director and corporate communications of HDS, "this campaign has not only helped the firm in its own area, but it has given the data storage firm a broader audience." As of December 1 2007, the first version, “Mr. T: The T in IT,” has been viewed 259,857 times on YouTube alone. In November 2007, Mr. T appeared in a television commercial for the online role playing game World of Warcraft with the phrase "I'm Mr. T and I'm a Night Elf Mohawk".
In 2008 Mr. T can be seen on shopping TVs selling his "Mr.T Flavorwave Oven".
Mohawk Media, publisher of the Mr. T graphic novel, has announced on its website that Sony Pictures will be producing a CGI movie starring Mr. T, scheduled for release in 2009.
Mr. T entered the world of professional wrestling in 1985. He was Hulk Hogan's tag-team partner at the first WrestleMania. Hulk Hogan wrote in his autobiography that Mr. T saved the main event of WrestleMania I between them and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff because when he arrived, security would not let his entourage into the building. Mr. T was ready to skip the show until Hogan personally talked him out of leaving. Piper has said that he and other fellow wrestlers disliked Mr. T because he was an actor coming into wrestling and had never paid his dues as a professional wrestler.
Remaining with the WWF, Mr. T became a special "WWF boxer," in light of his character in Rocky III. He took on "Cowboy" Bob Orton on the March 1, 1986 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, on NBC. This boxing stunt ultimately culminated in another boxing match against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 2. Mr. T returned to the World Wrestling Federation as a special guest referee in 1987 as well as a special referee enforcer confronting such stars as the Honky Tonk Man.
Seven years later, Mr. T reappeared as a special referee for a Hogan-Ric Flair match, in October 1994, at Halloween Havoc, and then went on to wrestle again, defeating Kevin Sullivan at that year's Starrcade.
Mr. T would return to wrestling, another seven years later, appearing in an episode of WWF Raw on November 19, 2001.
In 1984 Mr. T released an album titled Mr. T's Commandments (Columbia/CBS Records), much in the same tone as his 1984 educational video, which instructed children to stay in school and to stay away from drugs. He later followed up with a second album the same year, titled Mr T's Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool! (MCA Records), which featured music from the film of the same name.
In 2002, Mr. T appeared in the video for "Pass The Courvoisier" by Busta Rhymes featuring P. Diddy and Pharell Williams. John Cena's music video "Bad Bad Man" also featured an imitation of Mr. T/B.A. by Freddie Foxx throughout.
Mr. T splits his time between his suburban Chicago, Illinois home and a 20-acre (81,000 m2) ranch in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spends most of his summers. He is a born-again Christian.
In 2005, Mr. T stated that he would never wear his chains again. He arrived at this decision after seeing the effects of Hurricane Katrina. However, he has been seen wearing some chains for several commercial appearances, such as the 2007 U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand Snickers advertisement, and the 2007 World of Warcraft ad. Mr. T donated a great deal of clothing and money to Katrina victims. He is also an avid breeder of horses. He has been a guest on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor
In April 2009, Mr T was called for jury duty in Chicago. He showed up in court but was not chosen. Afterwards he signed autographs and posed for pictures.
This Mr. T Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub