For eight seasons within the ’70s and ’80s, Todd Bridges performed the lovable Willis Jackson on the sitcom Diff’lease Strokes. Bridges famously starred alongside one of many all-time nice baby actors, Gary Coleman, whose catchphrase, “what you are talkin’ ’bout, Willis,” was all about him. The pair rose to astronomical heights of fame for his or her beloved performances on the collection. But for the entire present’s success, Bridges went down a darkish path within the years that adopted, forming a drug habit that just about value him his life. In the present day, the actor has virtually 30 years of sobriety beneath his belt and helps higher the lives of others. Learn on to see him now at 56.
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Many younger actors have opened up about how tough it may be to develop up within the highlight, however Bridges had a very tough childhood earlier than he ever was on TV. Solid on Diff’lease Strokes on the age of 13, he discovered himself turning to medicine as a younger grownup to deal with traumatic experiences, which included years of bodily abuse by the hands of his father, and sexual abuse from one other grownup in his life.
“I used to be 20 years previous when [the drugs] began, as a result of I used to be attempting to cowl up the ache and affected by what I noticed in my household,” he shared in a 2013 interview with Katie Couric. “My earliest recollection of my father is him punching my mom and knocking her beneath a desk after I was 5 years previous. After which in a while I used to be molested, and after I instructed my father and mom about it, my father took his aspect,” he mentioned. “That simply destroyed me as a baby, as a result of the man who was supposed to guard me did not defend me. So when I discovered medicine what occurred was it lined up the ache and struggling.”
This led the actor down a darkish path of significant habit and arrests.
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Bridges was capable of flip his life round in 1993, when he lastly entered a rehab facility. “I noticed that one thing needed to change,” he instructed Couric of this tough interval in his life. “I like my life in the present day. My life is simply completely wonderful,” he mentioned in 2013, including that he is grateful to have “two stunning kids.”
In the present day, the actor and recovering addict has been sober for almost 30 years, and he makes use of his platform as an actor to attach with children who could also be going by way of comparable issues. “I’m going across the nation talking to individuals about anti-drugs,” he defined. “I can establish with most of them, and most of them establish with me.”
In 2010, Bridges printed a memoir about his expertise known as Killing Willis, which he says is the story of “how I ended up the way in which I did, and the way I discovered my approach again. The guide really particulars my life from early childhood all the way in which up till I am an grownup after I’m married. It describes my drug trials, it describes a historical past of abuse from my father, but it surely additionally describes a loving and caring second after I actually and really discovered forgive myself, and by doing that it made it doable for me to even write this guide.”
It could have been straightforward for Bridges’ personal upbringing to restrict him as a mother or father, however the actor says that in the present day, his best triumph is his relationship along with his personal two kids. “It made me a greater father,” he mentioned of his tough relationship along with his personal dad. “It made me understand that it is actually about loving my son, and telling my son and my daughter how a lot I like them, and spending time with them, and doing issues with them that our father by no means did. One factor that me and my brother actually satisfaction ourselves on—and my sister, too—is being nice dad and mom for our youngsters, and actually being there for our youngsters,” he shared.
The important thing to his parenting philosophy, he says, is admitting to his children when he is fallacious. “One of many largest issues in America is that oldsters do issues and so they will not inform their children they’re sorry,” he mentioned in 2010. “I believe so long as you deal with children like mini-adults, and you understand, you allow them to know you are fallacious, then they understand that ‘my dad and mom could make errors, due to this fact after I make errors, I will not need to beat myself up for it, and carry that with me for the remainder of my life.'”
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Although his household life and his experiences as a younger actor could have introduced extra hurt than good, Bridges nonetheless says he is honored to be part of the Diff’lease Strokes legacy. Specifically, he is proud to have been “on a present that basically pushed the envelope so far as racism.”
“It got here into America at a specific time in our lives when there weren’t very many black children hugging white individuals and saying they love them,” he defined in a 2010 interview. “And what made it so groundbreaking was that it was two former maids of Mr. Drummond, who Mr. Drummond adopted, which made individuals understand that it is actually about love, it is actually about totally different strokes for various of us. It does not matter what shade you’re or what you seem like or what background you are from, it is actually all about love.” he added.
In the present day, Bridges continues to behave, and at present has a number of initiatives slated for launch this yr. He could at all times be remembered as “Willis,” however the actor is targeted on his future.
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