At 5'11" tall, Tureaud weighs somewhere between 216 lb. and 237 lb. His gold jewelry is genuine and worth around $300,000. It takes him about an hour to put it on, and most nights he cleans it in an ultrasonic cleaner although some nights he sleeps in it "to see how my ancestors, who were slaves, felt." He was once reported to be earning around $80,000 a week for his role in The A-Team and getting $15,000 for personal appearances, but by the end of the 1990s, he was appearing only in the occasional commercial, largely because of health problems.
Tureaud was born in Chicago, Illinois, was a college American football star, studied martial arts, and won a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, Texas, but was thrown out after a year. After that he went to a couple of small Chicago colleges on athletic scholarships. After leaving college he was a Military Policeman in the U.S. Army before trying out for the Green Bay Packers. His professional football career was finished, however, by a knee injury.
For about nine years Tureaud was a bodyguard to the stars, protecting such well-known personalities as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. He charged around $3,000 a day and his business card famously read, "Next to God, there is no better protector than I." He always boasts that he never lost a client saying, "I got hurt worse growing up in the ghetto than working as a bodyguard."
In 1970 he changed his name by deed poll from Laurence Tureaud to Laurence Tero and then later to "Mr. T" so that people would have to address him as "Mr." It was while reading National Geographic that Mr. T first saw the unusual hairstyle for which he is now famous, on an African Mandinka warrior. He decided that adopting the style was a powerful statement about his African origins.
In 1982 Tureaud was spotted by Sylvester Stallone while taking part in "The World's Toughest Bouncer" contest. His role in "Rocky III" was originally intended as just a few lines, but Stallone built up the part around the man. "Mr. T" also appeared in another boxing film, "Penitentiary 2", and in a cable television special, "Bizarre", before accepting the role of B.A. in The A-Team. When asked at a press conference whether he was as stupid as B.A. Baracas, he observed quietly, "It takes a smart guy to play dumb."
"Mr. T" entered the world of pro wrestling in 1985 and returned to it in 1994. He was Hulk Hogan's tag-team partner at the first WrestleMania. He returned to the World Wrestling Federation as a special guest referee in 1987, before disappearing from the wrestling world. He reappeared as a special referee for a Hogan-Ric Flair match, seven years later, in October 1994.
Tureaud was diagnosed in 1995 with T-cell lymphoma, which some people see as ironic, given the name he chose for himself. He lives in Sherman Oaks, California, and is single. Mr. T still seeks acting jobs and has had small roles in several films. He has also appeared in commercials for MCI's 1-800-COLLECT collect-call service.