Bridges, Todd 1965–
Todd Bridges 1965–
As the star of the long–running television series Diff’rent Strokes, Todd Bridges became a household name as a child actor. Millions of fans watched him in the role of Willis Drummond in the series, which aired from 1978 to 1986, and enjoyed him in guest–starring roles on other popular television shows in the 1970s and 1980s. Once Diff’rent Strokes left the air, however, Bridges experienced a difficult transition as he struggled to move ahead as an adult actor. Arrested several times for drug and weapons offenses, Bridges later admitted that cocaine addiction had sent his life out of control. It took over a decade to get his life back on track with his new–found sobriety, marriage, and a series of bit parts on television shows and in films. In 2002 Bridges landed a comeback role on the popular daytime television drama The Young and the Restless and participated in the sensationalistic Fox network broadcast of Celebriti; Boxing against former rap star Vanilla Ice. “I have much more to overcome because it’s a matter of people believing in me and trusting in me,” the actor told Jet in October of 1999. He added, “No one is beyond problems. It’s just that mine were public and theirs weren’t. I’m not looking for a handout, just an opportunity.”
Born in San Francisco, California, on May 27, 1965, Todd Bridges grew up in a show business family. The Bridges moved to Los Angeles around 1971 so that his father, James Bridges, Sr., and mother, Betty Bridges, could pursue acting careers. Both found some minor success as actors, but found more lasting careers as managers and agents for other entertainers. Betty Bridges also worked as an acting coach, taking on her own children, James, Jr., Verda, and Todd, as pupils.
Bridges appeared with his family in a Jell–O commercial in the early 1970s, which was his first acting job. He followed it with appearances on the television show Barney Miller and the television movie Katherine in 1975. Bridges also starred in a television pilot, The Orphan and the Dude, which was not put into production as a series. Despite that setback, Bridges remained one of the most sought–after child actors of the day. In 1977 he appeared on television in the movie A Killing Affair, in the acclaimed miniseries Roots, and in the popular dramas Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. He also secured his first costarring role as the wisecracking Loomis on the Barney Miller spin–off comedy series Fish, starring Abe Vigoda. Fish lasted just one season, but it introduced
Born Todd Bridges on May 27, 1965, in San Francisco, CA; son of James Sr. and Betty Bridges; married Dori Smith, May 25, 1998; children: Spencer Todd.
Career: Actor, 1977–; TV series: Fish, 1977-76; Different Strokes, 1978-86; cinematographer, A Devil Disguised, 1997; producer, director, and actor, Building Bridges, 1999.
Selected memberships: Founder, Todd Bridges Youth Foundation, 1992–.
Bridges to veteran television producer Norman Lear, who was then seeking an actor for a new series, Diff’rent Strokes.
Lear’s production company had already cast veteran television actor Conrad Bain, and a rising child star, Gary Coleman, as the leads in the situation comedy, in which a wealthy white businessman, Philip Drummond, adopts the two African–American children of his late housekeeper. Looking for an actor to play a street–smart, somewhat cynical older brother to the lovable, naive character portrayed by Coleman, Lear thought of Bridges, who had taken on a similar role in Fish. Rounding out the cast, Dana Plato took the role of Kimberly Drummond, Philip Drummond’s biological daughter, and Charlotte Rae joined the cast as Mrs. Garrett, the housekeeper. The show was an immediate hit upon its debut on NBC in the fall of 1978, with much of the humor derived from the interaction between Bain’s character and his two adopted sons. Although racial issues were not the main focus of the show, Diff’rent Strokes was also notable for its depiction of a multiracial family coming to terms with the different perspectives of its members.
Although Gary Coleman was the most popular member of the cast, Bridges was the subject of intense media interest during his years on the show. He appeared on most of the talk shows of the era, as well as in specials such as Battle of the Network Stars and Circus of the Stars, and in televesion shows such as The Love Boat and CHiPs. Bridges, who earned an estimated $15,000 per episode of Diff’rent Strokes, experienced some personal difficulties during the show’s run, which ended in 1986. Arrested for carrying a concealed firearm in 1983, Bridges paid a $240 fine for the offense. Like Bridges, the other young actors on Diff’rent Strokes also faced personal challenges. Coleman underwent several hospitalizations for kidney–related ailments while Plato battled eating disorders and, later, drug addiction and an arrest for armed robbery. Coleman later sued his parents for mismanaging his finances, while Plato died from a drug overdose in May of 1999.
Faced with declining ratings, Diff’rent Strokes had moved to ABC for its final season in 1985–86, when it was finally canceled after its eighth season. The cancellation of the show hit Bridges hard, and he blamed casting directors for refusing to see him in acting roles other than that of Willis Drummond, whom he had portrayed for so many years. Bridges contributed to his reputation as a troubled young actor, however, with a second arrest for making a bomb threat against an automobile customizing business in 1987. Bridges pleaded no contest to the charge and received a suspended sentence for the incident. In January of 1989 he was in the headlines again when he was arrested on an armed robbery charge. According to law enforcement officials, Bridges had threatened an auto mechanic with a gun and forcibly taken his car from the shop without paying his $500 bill. A witness later claimed that he was not sure that it was Bridges who was involved in the incident, and the charge was dropped.
On February 2, 1989, Bridges was arrested again, this time for the attempted murder of a crack cocaine dealer. The indictment alleged that Bridges had shot the drug dealer eight times in a dispute that took place in a crack house in Los Angeles. Under the guidance of attorney Johnnie Cochran, Bridges admitted at trial that he was a heavy user of cocaine, and used this as his defense, claiming that his drug use had made it impossible for him to remember whether or not he had shot the victim. After two criminal trials Bridges was acquitted, but the incident effectively destroyed his acting career. Another arrest for methamphetamine and firearms possession in 1993 also hurt his reputation. Bridges pled guilty to the charges and entered a court–ordered, one–year drug treatment program. The program helped the actor win his battle against drugs, although he admitted that his temperament remained a problem. In 1997 he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after he repeatedly rammed a friend in another car in a fit of rage. He pled guilty to the lesser charge of vandalism, performed court–ordered community service and paid a fine.
Bridges credited a renewed spirituality for helping him to face up to his problems. He told Clifton Davis in an interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, “I had to go to Christ and Christ has been guiding me and tooling me and showing me a whole other way…. He did a miracle with me! And people don’t get it. I’m eight years clean and sober. I’ve been out of trouble for five years without any problems. ‘What has happened to this guy? He’s not the same as he used to be.’ And I’m able to walk away from problems.” Bridges also put his religious beliefs into practice when he founded the Todd Bridges Youth Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit center that sponsored sports, computer training, and acting courses for inner-city children.
On May 25,1998, Bridges married Dori Smith and the couple soon welcomed a son, Spencer Todd Bridges. In 1999 Bridges worked as the producer and director of Building Bridges, a film for the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which explored his embrace of Christianity in solving his personal problems. Bridges also worked behind the camera on the films Flossin and Black Ball in 2000. In 2002 Bridges had his most successful year since leaving Diff’rent Strokes. His appearance on the Fox Network’s Celebrity Boxing special in a victorious bout against Vanilla Ice was a ratings success. Later that year he signed a contract for a five-week appearance on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, which Bridges hoped would be expanded into a regular role.
Roots, ABC, 1977.
Fish, ABC, 1977–78.
Different Strokes, NBC, 1978–85; ABC, 1985–86.
Building Bridges, 1999.
The Young and the Restless, CBS, 2002.
Twice Dead, 1988.
Entertainment Weekly, February 4, 2000, p. 84.
Jet, February 10, 1997, p. 48; October 18, 1999, p. 36.
People, July 22, 2002, p. 16.
Entertainment Tonight, http://www.etonline.com/ (July 11,2002).
Jesus Is the Answer Ministries, http://www.jitaministries.com/ (September 14, 2002).
Todd Bridges (official website), http://www.toddbridges.com/bio/ (September 13, 2002).
Trinity Broadcasting Network, http://www.tbn.org/ (February 1, 2001).
Bridges, Todd 1965–
Bridges, Todd 1965–
Born May 27, 1965, in San Francisco, CA; son of James, Sr. (an agent) and Betty A. (an actress, director, and manager) Bridges; brother of Jimmy Bridges (an actor); uncle of Penny Bae Bridges and Brook Marie Bridges (both actresses); married second wife, Dori Smith, May 25, 1998; children: Spencer Todd.
Addresses: Agent—Nancy Chaidez Agency, 1555 Vine St., Suite 223, Hollywood, CA 90028.
Career: Actor, producer, director, cinematographer, and writer. Little Bridge Productions, founder (with brother, James Bridges, Jr.); appeared in television commercials, including Jell-O. Todd Bridges Youth Foundation, founder, 1992; lectures teens around the United States about drugs, alcohol, and safe sex.
Awards, Honors: Young Artist Award nomination, best young actor in a comedy series, 1983, 1984, both for Diff'rent Strokes.
Himself/cyclist, Bicycle Safety (documentary), 1975.
Petie, Twice Dead, Nelson, 1988.
Water man, She's Out of Control, Columbia, 1989.
The Sounds of Silence, 1992.
Johnny Davis, Homeboys, American International Pictures Home Video, 1992.
Tyrone, Prisoners of Love, 1996.
Billy, Busted, PM Entertainment Group, 1996.
Tyrone, Gangstaz (also known as Last Chance), 1996.
Hoover Park, 1997.
The Waterfront, Ares Motion Picture Company, 1997.
Dr. Glick, The Girl Gets Moe (also known as Love to Kill), Girl Gets Moe Pictures, 1997.
Thomas, A Devil Disguised, 1997.
Richard, A Day in the Life of Mia, 1997.
Burn, The Thief and the Stripper (also known as Strip 'n Run), Bruder Releasing, 1998.
The Waterfront (also known as Maximum Justice), AMCO Entertainment Group, 1998.
Dr. Acosta, Flat Out, 1998.
Himself, Building Bridges, 1999.
Himself, Labor Day, 2000.
Night watchman, Hollywood, 2000.
Terry, Flossin, Urban Domain, 2000.
Lincoln, Dumb Luck, 2001.
Inhumanity, York Entertainment, 2001.
Himself, Wrong Way to Sundance, 2001.
Ted, Baby of the Family, 2002.
Harrison Dodge, Pacino Is Missing, 2002.
Easy T, Welcome to America, 2002.
Lamar, Scream at the Sound of the Beep, 2002.
Todd, The Beach House, 2002.
Eddie, The Climb, WorldWide Pictures, 2002.
Tupac: Resurrection (documentary), Paramount, 2003.
Himself, Pauly Shore Is Dead, CKrush Entertainment, 2003.
Himself, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (also known as Dickie Roberts: (Former) Child Star), Paramount, 2003.
Billy, Black Ball (also known as Full Circle), Cargo Films, 2003.
May Day, 2003.
Alex, Land of the Free?, 2004.
Herardo, Curse of the Maya (also known as Evil Grave: Curse of the Maya), David Heavener Entertainment, 2004.
Carson, Issue, 2005.
Henry Nails, Treasure 'n tha Hood, Lightyear, 2005.
Jimmy, I Got Five On It, Image Entertainment, 2005.
William, Last Call, 2006.
Dennis, The Damned, 2006.
Also appeared in Fire Sale.
Cinematographer, A Devil Disguised, 1997.
Producer and director, Building Bridges, 1999.
Producer and director, Flossin, 2000.
Producer and director, Black Ball (also known as Full Circle), Cargo Films, 2003.
Television Appearances; Series:
Loomis, Fish, ABC, 1977–78.
Willis Jackson Drummond, Diff'rent Strokes, NBC, 1978–85, then ABC, 1985–86.
Juice number two, The Young and the Restless (also known as Y&R), CBS, 2002.
Skating with Celebrities, Fox, 2006.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Bud, Roots, ABC, 1977.
I Love the '70s, VH1, 2003.
100 Greatest Kids Stars, VH1, 2005.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Robert, Katherine (also known as The Radical), ABC, 1975.
Todd York, A Killing Affair (also known as Behind the Badge), CBS, 1977.
Jason Hayes, The Return of the Mod Squad, ABC, 1979.
Otto Lipton, High School U.S.A. (also known as High School USA), NBC, 1983.
Circle of Pain, 1996.
Baron, The Darkling, 2000.
Himself, Dancing in September, HBO, 2000.
Power plant guard, Ghost Dog: A Detective Tail, PAX, 2003.
The man, Jane Doe: Now You See It, Now You Don't, Hallmark Channel, 2005.
Peter, Alien Express, Sci-Fi Channel, 2005.
Television Appearances; Specials:
NBC team member, Battle of the Network Stars VI, ABC, 1979.
Himself, Good Evening, Captain, CBS, 1981.
Circus of the Stars #6, CBS, 1981.
Roller Disco Championship, 1981.
NBC Star Salute to 1981, NBC, 1981.
Performer, Circus of the Stars #7, CBS, 1982.
Red team member, Battle of the Video Games, syndicated, 1983.
Hang Tight, Willy-Bill, syndicated, 1983.
The Lost Youth of Hollywood, NBC, 1991.
Robin Leach's Private Files: The Price of Fame, syndicated, 1993.
The Beth Littleford Interview Special, Comedy Central, 1998.
Diff'rent Strokes: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 1998.
Crack dealer, After Diff'rent Strokes: When the Laughter Stopped, Fox, 2000.
TV Guide's Truth behind the Sitcoms 2, Fox, 2000.
Child Stars: Their Story (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2000.
Entertainment Tonight Presents: TV's Greatest Scandals, syndicated, 2000.
Celebrity Boxing, Fox, 2002.
TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV (also known as 1st Annual TV Land Awards), TV Land, 2003.
BET Comedy Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2004.
100 Greatest Kid Stars, VH1, 2005.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Leonard Brown, The Orphan and the Dude, ABC, 1975.
Himself, Komedy Tonite, NBC, 1978.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Truman Jackson, "The Hero," Barney Miller (also known as The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller), ABC, 1975.
Solomon Henry, "The Wisdom of Solomon," Little House on the Prairie, NBC, 1977.
Josh, "The Stray," The Waltons, CBS, 1977.
Michael Jr., "The Kissing Bandit/Mike and Ike/Witness," The Love Boat, ABC, 1978.
Josh, "The Illusion," The Waltons, CBS, 1978.
Willis Jackson, "The Drummonds' Visit," The Facts of Life, NBC, 1979.
Himself, "CHiPs Goes Roller Disco," CHiPs, NBC, 1979.
Dinah! syndicated, 1979.
20/20, ABC, 1979.
Here's Boomer, NBC, 1980.
Himself, "The Great 5K Star Race and Boulder Wrap Party, Part 2," CHiPs, NBC, 1980.
The Mike Douglas Show, syndicated, 1980.
The Hollywood Squares, syndicated, 1980.
The John Davidson Show, syndicated, 1980.
"Boomer's Eastside Story," Here's Boomer, NBC, 1981.
Willis Jackson, "Bought and Sold," The Facts of Life, 1981.
Kids Are People, Too, ABC, 1981.
Hour Magazine, syndicated, 1981.
Dance Fever, syndicated, 1983.
All-Star Blitz, ABC, 1985.
The New Lassie, 1990.
The Howard Stern Show, syndicated, 1991.
Himself, "On Melrose Avenue," The Ben Stiller Show, Fox, 1992.
Himself, "Episode with Bobcat Goldthwait," The Ben Stiller Show, Fox, 1992.
Trevor, "Cop Star," L.A. Heat, TNT, 1999.
"I Love 1980," I Love 1980's, BBC 2, 2001.
Himself, "Newsmakers Edition," Weakest Link (also known as The Weakest Link USA), NBC, 2001.
Himself, Oh Drama!, Black Entertainment Television, 2001.
"It's a Nude, Nude, Nude, Nude World," Sons of the Beach, FX Channel, 2001.
Mad TV, Fox, 2001.
T. J. Davis, "Saved by the Bell: Jessie's Song/The Jeffersons: Florence in Love," The Rerun Show, NBC, 2002.
Contestant, Cram, Game Show Network, 2003.
Himself, Banzai, Fox, 2003.
Hollywood Squares (also known as H2 and H2: Hollywood Squares), syndicated, 2003.
Himself, "Mel's Dinner," The Surreal Life, 2004.
"Gary Coleman," A&E Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2005.
Himself, Punk'd, MTV, 2005.
Himself, "Changing Times and Trends," TV Land Confidential, TV Land, 2005.
Also appeared as young jockey, "The Jockey," Here's Boomer, and Turk, "Rocker Boomer," Here's Boomer.
Television Work; Specials:
Consultant, After Diff'rent Strokes: When the Laughter Stopped, Fox, 2000.
Appeared in Moby's "We Are All Made out of Stars," 2002.
Building Bridges, 1999.
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 37, Gale Group, 2003.
Entertainment Weekly, January 31, 1997, p. 11; February 4, 2000, p. 84.
Jet, January 18, 1993, p. 58; February 1, 1993, p. 64; March 29, 1993, p. 34; April 5, 1993, p. 37; August 16, 1993, p. 56; December 27, 1993, p. 29; February 10, 1997, p. 48; October 18, 1999, p. 36; April 30, 2001, p. 64.
Newsweek, January 16, 1995, p. 60.
People, July 22, 2002, p. 16.