In the world of television, few shows have left as indelible a mark as ‘Diff’rent Strokes’. The sitcom, which aired from 1978 to 1986, was not just a source of entertainment but also a platform for discussing serious social issues. Among its stars was Todd Bridges, who played Willis Jackson, a character that became a household name. But as the curtains fell on the show, the spotlight on Bridges dimmed. This article delves into the journey of Todd Bridges, exploring his early roles, his time on ‘Diff’rent Strokes’, and what he has been up to in recent years.
Todd Bridges was born on May 27, 1965, in San Francisco, California. His foray into acting began at a young age. Before his teenage years, Bridges had already appeared in a variety of commercials and TV shows.
His early roles included appearances in popular series like ‘The Waltons’, ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and the miniseries ‘Roots’. These roles, though small, showcased his talent and opened doors for bigger opportunities.
Bridges’ big break came in 1978 when he was cast in ‘Diff’rent Strokes’. The show revolved around two African-American boys from Harlem, adopted by a wealthy white businessman. Bridges’ portrayal of Willis Jackson, the older of the two brothers, was both charismatic and impactful. The show was praised for tackling issues like race, class, and drug abuse, often with a blend of humor and seriousness.
During his time on ‘Diff’rent Strokes’, Bridges became a teen idol. However, the pressure of fame at such a young age came with its challenges. He faced legal troubles and battled addiction, struggles that were widely publicized and often overshadowed his professional achievements.
Life After Career ‘Diff’rent Strokes’
After Diff’rent Strokes ended in 1986, Todd Bridges had some trouble finding his footing, struggling with drug addiction and legal issues.
He revealed he was sexually abused at age 10-11 by his publicist, who was a family friend. His father did not believe him and prioritized money over protecting his son. Bridges said this abuse caused him lifelong trauma.
Though Bridges did not start using drugs until his 20s, after Diff’rent Strokes ended, the sexual abuse he endured was a major factor that led to his addiction. The trauma, combined with police harassment for being black, his parents’ divorce, and losing millions to embezzlement, caused him to turn to drugs as an escape.
Bridges developed addictions to cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine. His drug use led to him hitting rock bottom multiple times, including suicide attempts and brushes with the law. In 1989, he was charged with attempted murder but found not guilty.
After years of addiction, Bridges finally got sober in 1993 and has maintained his sobriety for 30 years. He credits his faith in God, support from Johnny Cochran, and wanting a better life as reasons he was able to overcome his substance abuse.
Career-wise, he continued acting in smaller roles through the 1990s and 2000s, including appearances in The Ben Stiller Show, Son of the Beach, and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Bridges landed a regular role again from 2005-2006 on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, but has not achieved the same level of fame he had as a child star on Diff’rent Strokes.
What is Todd Bridges Doing Now?
Though he still acts, Todd Bridges focuses much of his time on motivational speaking and advocacy work related to his struggles with addiction and trauma. He aims to help people understand addiction and find ethical, effective treatment options.
Bridges has been sober for 30 years as of 2023. He credits his faith in God for giving him the strength to maintain his sobriety. He still works actively with a sponsor to keep him accountable.
He continues acting, recently appearing on shows like Celebrity Big Brother. Bridges was previously working on a reboot of Diff’rent Strokes before false accusations caused the project to be cancelled.
Bridges also does work as a life coach and personal trainer. He is happily married as of 2021 and helps raise his wife’s four children. He coaches his 10-year-old’s football team as well.
In addition, Bridges has become a streamer on Twitch, where he has over 9,000 followers. He finds activities like video games helpful to stay busy and engaged in a positive way.
Overall, Bridges has found happiness through his sobriety, family life, and philanthropic endeavors focused on helping others avoid the struggles he went through.