Mr. T (born Laurence Tureaud; May 21 1952) is an American actor known for his roles as Sgt. "B. A." (Bad Attitude) Baracus in the 1980s television series The A-Team, as boxer James "Clubber" Lang in the 1982 film Rocky III, and for his numerous appearances in the WWF and 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.
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 professional football 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.
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." 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 in a cable television special, Bizarre(in a Sketch 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"), 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 he was as stupid as B.A. Baracus, he observed quietly, "It takes a smart guy to play dumb."
A Ruby-Spears produced cartoon called Mr. 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, he 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, 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 a US-based human rights campaign group, 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 1st 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".
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 an episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, on NBC. This boxing stint 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, before suddenly disappearing from the wrestling world.
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.
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.
In 2005, Mr. T stated that he would never wear his chains again, "No, T, you can never wear your gold again. It's an insult to God". 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. and Ireland Snickers advertisement, and the 2007 World of Warcraft ad. Mr. T donated a great deal of clothing and money to Katrina victims.