Todd Bridges is a 57-year-old American professional actor who began his acting career when he was a six-year-old child. Bridges holds a remarkable number of achievements as a professional member of the entertainment industry.
He was the first black child actor to have a recurring or regular role on a hit television series – The Waltons and then on Little House on the Prairie. Following those achievements, in 1975, Todd earned a regular role on the sitcom Barney Miller and, ultimately, on its spinoff Fish.
VH-1 ranks Todd Bridges as 40th on their list of 100 Greatest Kid Stars. As of April 2023, Todd Bridges net worth is estimated to be approximately $250,000.
Todd Bridge's Professional Life
When Todd was six, he declared he knew he wanted to be an actor while watching a 1972 Sanford and Son episode with his mother. At a time when very few black artists had very real opportunities in Hollywood, Todd Bridges' forged ahead with a unilateral focus – landing his first job in a Jell-O commercial in which his entire family starred.
Todd Bridges first appeared in a variety of series (Little House on the Prairie Police Story, CHiPs, The Love Boat, The Facts of Life & and more) as well as a Fish regular (a Barney Miller spinoff) and featured in the landmark miniseries Roots.
His Big Break
The big break for Todd Bridges happened when he was cast as Willis Jackson, the older brother of Arnold Jackson – infamously played by Gary Coleman. Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman starred in the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes – a breakout series about a racially-mixed, blended family that began in 1978 and ran eight seasons for a total of 189 episodes.
Several of the episodes daringly and bravely dealt with highly sensitive topics – especially for television in the late 1970s and early 1980s – covering issues like gangs, racial inequality, etc. And for trivia buffs, Willis Jackson's girlfriend on Diff'rent Strokes was, for several seasons, none other than Janet Jackson – a talented singer and actress who has a few siblings who are known worldwide.
Like the other children he co-starred with, Todd Bridge's personal and professional life began to become quite challenging after Norman Lear's Diff'rent Strokes was canceled by the network. Many cast members faced unusually difficult circumstances after the show ended. In fact, since the death of Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garrett) in 2018, Todd Bridges is now officially the only living person from the original cast of Diff’rent Strokes. Even those cast members who were younger are deceased.
Continuing to Find Work in the Industry
Despite these struggles, Bridges continued to find work in the entertainment industry. Since his early start in the acting business, Todd Bridges has worked professionally –
- Appearing in a variety of music videos over the decades of his professional career.
- 1984 - Change Your Wicked Ways by Penny Ford
- 2002 – We Are All Made of Stars by Moby
- 2022 – Howlin For You by the Black Keys
- Defeating Vanilla Ice on Celebrity Boxing in 2002.
- Appearing on Celebrity Fear Factor and Skating with Celebrities in 2006
- Appearing on 1 vs. 100 and Decision House.
- Commentating on The Worlds Dumbest….. – for several years.
- Performing on CMTs Celebrity Championship Wrestling as Mr. Not So Perfect.
- With a recurring role on Everybody Hates Chris.
- Appearing on the Weakest Link in 2001.
- Performing as a voice actor or narrator on a number of video games in 2014, 2016, and 2019
- Appearing as a Houseguest on Celebrity Big Brother's 3rd season in 2022.
Todd Bridge's Personal Life
Todd Anthony Bridges was born in San Francisco, CA, under the sign of Gemini, having been born on May 27, 1965. His parents were both entertainment industry professionals. Bridge's mom, Betty Alice Pryor, was an actress, manager, and director. His mom is known for her professional roles in several episodes of NYPD Blue, Scrubs, Moonlight, 2 Broke Girls, Cold Case, and the films A Night at the Roxbury & A Day in the Life of Mia, among others.
Todd's Dad, James Bridges Sr., was a talent agent and one of the first prominent black talent agents to find success in Hollywood.
Todd Bridges has two siblings, James Daniel Bridges Jr (also an actor/director/producer) and Verda Bridges. His niece Brooke is also another family member in the acting business.
Bridges has two children. His first wife, also a former child actor, Dori Smith Bridges, share a son – Spencir Bridges. Bridges former wife has also appeared in various movies and videos over the years. Specir Bridges has followed in his dad's footsteps and has been seen in a number of TV series and TV movies that, include House, iCarly, and The Starter Wife, among others.
Bridges also has a daughter – Bo J - from another previous relationship who is also a professional actor. Bo J has credits in several videos and a TV Series Oprah – Where Are They Now?
Todd Bridges was married for the second time in 2022 to Bettijo Hirshi.
Bridges' Memoir Chronicles How His Problematic Past Led to a Trouble Adult Life
In 2008, after decades in the entertainment business, Todd Bridges wrote Killing Willis with its aptly named subtitle- From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted. The lengthy-titled book was a chance for Bridges to lay bare the honest truth about the difficulties he faced in childhood and after his immense success on a wildly popular sitcom comedy.
Throughout the book, Bridges outlines the many cases of abuse – including a sexual trauma by a family friend/publicist when he was 11, that led to the many mistakes and drug addictions that haunted Todd Bridges for many decades. The book also highlights Todd Bridges’ personal triumph over addiction as he has been sober for more than a quarter of a century.
In an effort to push past his Willis Jackson of Diff'rent Strokes notoriety, Todd Bridges appeared on Oprah's Show in 2010 to discuss how his troubled past contributed to his choices and current growth as a person.
In the late 1990s, Todd and James Bridges were credited with saving a 51-year-old paraplegic woman from drowning when her wheelchair accidentally rolled into the lake while fishing.
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Written by Allen Lee
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