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American actor Todd Bridges is best known for playing Willis Jackson on the hit TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes.
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American actor Todd Bridges was born on May 27, 1965, in San Francisco, California. As a young child, Bridges appeared in commercials and on television shows. His big break came in 1978 with the part of Willis Jackson on the hit TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes—a role that he retained for eight years. Like many former child actors, Bridges ran into trouble with the law. From drugs to firearms, his lawbreaker reputation throughout the 1980s and '90s affected his ability to work. In 1998,
Bridges found Christianity and turned his life around. He continues to act in small roles on TV.
Actor Todd Anthony Bridges was born in San Francisco, California, on May 27, 1965. Todd Bridges grew up in a Hollywood family; his parents, James and Betty, were both actors, as were his older siblings Jimmy and Verda. His parents, finding little success as performers, found more stable work as agents and acting coaches. The Bridges' clients included their own children, and by the time Todd was 4 they had already begun managing his career. That year he got his first modeling job, posing for a magazine ad. When he was 9, Todd made his acting debut in a Jell-O commercial with his family. The gig resulted in more acting work for Bridges, including a 1975 appearance on the TV show Barney Miller and a role in the made-for-television movie, Katherine (1975).
In 1977, Todd appeared in the critically acclaimed mini-series Roots, as well as the popular TV dramas Little House on the Prairie, Love Boat and The Waltons. Around that same time, thanks to his earlier appearance on Barney Miller, Bridges secured a role on the Barney Miller spin-off, Fish. In his first co-starring role, the 10-year-old played a streetwise jokester named Loomis. While Fish was canceled after only one season, Bridges' performance caught the attention of producer Norman Lear. At the age of 12, Bridges finally got his big break: a starring role on an ensemble comedy show called Diff'rent Strokes. The role would change Bridges' life.
Diff'rent Strokes featured Bridges, as well another rising child star, Gary Coleman. The boys played orphans taken in by a wealthy white businessman (played by Conrad Bain), his teenage daughter (played by Dana Plato) and their housekeeper (played by Charlotte Rae). An instant hit, Diff'rent Strokes became NBC's highest-rated sitcom. Bridges would continue to star on the show for eight years, making straight-As at the Hollywood Academy high school in between shoots. The teen heartthrob made more than $15,000 an episode at the show's peak and, by the age of 18, owned a home in Los Angeles, had his pick of girlfriends, and held the keys to a promising career.
Yet Bridges faced many personal challenges off the set. His father, who worked as his agent, and his mother, who became his manager, divorced in 1982. Although the couple remained friends, the split hit Todd particularly hard.
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