Fans may not always remember his name, but they certainly remember the actor. Tommy Lister Jr. is a recognizable face in Hollywood, with appearances in a wide variety of films. His tough-guy appearance frequently cast him in the role of heavy or tough guys, but he managed to break out of that mold on more than one occasion to play some very unusual characters.
This former professional wrestler turned to acting and made a name for himself by working alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Here are ten of his most iconic acting roles, in no particular order that shows his ability to completely break free from what could have been his typecasting.
10 Jackson (Runaway Train / 1985)
Tommy Lister Jr. made his big screen debut in the 1985 film about the prison break. Runaway train starring Eric Roberts and Jon Voight. Coincidentally, it was also the film debut of Danny Trejo, who played a boxer in the movie fighting Roberts’ character McGeehy.
Here, Lister Jr. was playing against the guy by taking on the role of a prison security guard, rather than a tough or bad guy. Even then, fans saw his natural talent as an actor and his ability to play characters that challenged his strongman appearance and tough-guy personality.
9 Tiny (The Prince of Bel-Air / 1991)
Lister Jr. made a funny appearance in the iconic El Fresh prince of Bel Air, few years after his acting career began. He appeared in the season one episode “72 Hours” in a story involving Carlton trying to get so long in the Jazz neighborhood. He was immediately approached by Lister Jr.’s character Tiny, a reference to the actor’s nickname.
The episode took a funny turn when Carlton not only survived in that environment, but flourished. When Tiny asked how he had calculated his personal net worth, Carlton chided him, who had somehow taken on the role of Boss. It was a short but very memorable role.
8 Finnick (Zootopia / 2016)
Lister Jr. took his ‘Tiny’ moniker to a whole new level when he lent his booming baritone voice to animated hit. Zootopia in 2016. He played the character of Finnick, a rather diminutive fennec fox who acted as a partner in crime with con artist Nick Wilde. At first, it seemed like Finnick was nothing more than an innocent baby with big dreams of being an elephant when he grew up.
When it was revealed to be nothing more than a hustle, the true voice of Lister Jr. came to the forefront. It was a hilarious juxtaposition between a rather cute looking character and a base-rocking voice to accompany him.
7 Cassius (Little Nicky / 2000)
This classic Adam Sandler comedy featured Lister Jr. in the role of Cassius, the cruelest of Satan’s three sons. He was responsible for Nicky’s disfigured jaw and consequent speech impediment, after hitting him in the face with a shovel. After Satan proclaims that he is unwilling to hand over the rule of Hell to one of his sons, Cassius heads to Earth with his brother Adrian to start his own.
It was a hilarious role that showcased the comedic side of Lister Jr., which he had dabbled with in previous films. Here, he was able to put out a quirky and ridiculous comedy in a way that he couldn’t with hits like Friday.
6 Klaang (Enterprise / 2001)
Lister Jr. played a pivotal role in the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, and it helped set the tone for what the show would eventually become. In terms of Star trek In the chronological timeline, his character Klaang was the first Klingon to appear, which is a definite bragging right.
Klaang crashed to Earth in the middle of Oklahoma after escaping from two Suliban warriors attempting to retrieve evidence injected directly into his DNA. His character would eventually avoid a Klingon civil war.
5 Winston (Jackie Brown / 1997)
Renegade director Quentin Tarantino cast Lister Jr. on his smash hit Jackie Brown in 1997, and it was an opportunity for the actor to expand his acting range in a big way. He played the character of Winston, who “finds people who don’t want to be found.” It was an interesting role, given the fact that Lister Jr. played the relatively straightforward and unassuming character.
Although he was a supporting actor in the film, it helped a lot to prepare him for other types of roles that would normally be given to another actor. This would unfold a second time in 1997 when he starred The fifth element.
4 Zeus (Unrestricted / 1989)
This testosterone-packed wrestling movie allowed Lister Jr. to channel his wrestling personality against Hulk Hogan, who in turn played the character of Rip Thomas. It had all the hallmarks of an action movie from the 1980s, including a vibrant soundtrack, brutal slow-motion shocks, and of course plenty of thousand-meter stares.
In many ways, this is the movie that helped Lister Jr. get into the Hollywood business for good. He had already starred in movies like Beverly Hills Cop II Y Extreme prejudice, but this was an opportunity to have a leading role as the main antagonist. Later, Lister Jr. took advantage of this opportunity to star in a wide range of roles.
3 Tattooed Prisoner (The Dark Knight / 2008)
Everyone recognized Lister Jr. when they saw him at Christopher Nolan’s The dark knight, but his character turned out to be quite different from what they initially expected. Here, he played a tattooed prisoner aboard one of the Joker-equipped ships with explosives. The scene is memorable for its excruciating and biting tension.
With both ships instructed to fly the other before time ran out, Lister Jr.’s character demanded the detonator from a security guard. The public believed that it was all over for the innocent passengers of the other ship, but the character threw the detonator out the window, showing that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of himself and the prisoners to save the other side. It was an extremely emotional and powerful moment that single-handedly lit up a very dark movie.
2 President Lindberg (The Fifth Element / 1997)
This particular role is perhaps the most delightfully bizarre of Lister Jr.’s career. In this sci-fi action show, he wasn’t rushing around playing a bad guy. Instead, he was president of the Federated Territories. This was practically unheard of at that time and even today. Usually strongman actors are typecast in a certain way, but Lister Jr. had none of that.
This was the beginning of their split into a variety of interesting roles that denied typecasting. Hollywood is well known for sticking to a formula, but The fifth element showed that many roles are open to actors who are willing to audition and get a great performance.
one Deebo (Friday / 1995)
This is by far the most famous and recognizable of the Lister Jr. roles. It’s a comedy classic made famous in large part thanks to the inclusion of the hilariously humorous Chris Tucker and a great supporting cast. Lister Jr. played the monstrous Deebo, a neighborhood bully who recruits guys who aren’t willing to do their dirty work.
The movie ends with Deebo taking on Ice Cube’s character Craig for all the marbles. It’s a brutal scene that departs from the hilarious comedy present in the rest of the film. He appeared in the sequel. Next Friday where he tried to get revenge on Craig for the events of the first movie.
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