Gary Coleman - Parents, Death & Facts

In the 1980s, “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” became a common catchphrase thanks to the efforts of a minor television actor named Gary Coleman.

Who Was Gary Coleman?

Gary Coleman, an actor, only reached a height of 4 feet 8 inches due to the various health difficulties he endured. However, Coleman’s small stature and charming personality made him perfect for Hollywood, and in 1978, when he was only 10 years old, he became the star of the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes; he played the much-loved character Arnold Jackson, an African American orphan who is adopted by a wealthy white benefactor named Philip Drummond; on the series, which was an instant hit, he was the lead actor. The question “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” was frequently asked by Coleman on the show and quickly became a catchphrase in popular culture. After that, the actor appeared in various projects, including the movies On the Right Track (1981) and The Kid With the Broken Halo (1982), both of which were subsequently made into animated television shows that bore the name The Gary Coleman Show. Coleman suffered from an intracranial hemorrhage, ultimately leading to his passing on May 28, 2010, at 42.

Early Life

Gary Wayne Coleman was adopted as an infant by his biological father, W.G. Coleman, a pharmaceutical salesperson, and his biological mother, Edmonia Sue, a nurse practitioner. Gary Wayne Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois, on February 8, 1968. Coleman was diagnosed with various health conditions shortly after his birth, one of which was a congenital kidney abnormality known as nephritis, which required many surgical procedures and lifelong dialysis treatment. He received his first kidney transplant when he was five years old and then a second one when he was 17. Coleman’s height was permanently stunted as a result of the medical ailments that he suffered from, and as a result, he remained at the short height of 4 feet 8 inches.


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Career Breakthrough

Coleman was found by a talent scout working for the Norman Lear agency when he was around 9. The scout was looking for actors to star in a revival of the iconic Little Rascals comedy series. Coleman was the perfect fit. Coleman’s diminutive stature proved an asset in other shows, as he was cast to play precocious characters nearly half his age. Although the project was unsuccessful, Coleman’s small stature proved an asset. The role of Arnold Jackson in the brand-new sitcom Different Strokes was the actor’s big break, which came in the year 1978. The show was called Diff’rent Strokes. Coleman portrayed an African American orphan adopted by a wealthy white benefactor and his daughter. The benefactor was a wealthy white businessman. Coleman and his co-stars, Dana Plato and Todd Bridges, were all successful due to their work in the series. His catchphrase from the sitcom, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?,” which he frequently used on the show, also became popular culture jargon. Coleman was able to parlay his popularity in television into a successful career in the film industry as a direct result of his achievements. He had roles in the movies On the Right Track (1981) and the made-for-television movie The Kid With the Broken Halo (1982), which was adapted into the animated series The Gary Coleman Show in the future.

Coleman established his production firm, Gary Coleman Productions when he was just 10 years old to manage his career. His parents took over management of the business full-time and wrote themselves into the contract as paid employees of their son’s company. Coleman’s acting career slowed considerably after the cancellation of Diff’rent Strokes in 1986. At that time, the child actor turned to his trust fund, which was thought to possess roughly $18 million. Coleman, who would have been almost 18 years old at the time, found $220,000. As a result of the revelation, he filed a complicated lawsuit against his parents and his agency, alleging that they had stolen money from his trust fund. Coleman did not receive much of his initial wage, as he was only awarded $3.8 million despite winning the lawsuit.

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Personal Issues

Coleman struggled with depression in the aftermath of the settlement, and he later admitted that he had made multiple attempts to take his own life. The former athlete entered a period of semi-retirement when he moved between Colorado and Arizona. Coleman began working as a security guard since he could not obtain acting work at the time. Due to financial difficulties, Coleman submitted his bankruptcy petition in 1999. He continued to appear in cameo roles on many television shows, such as The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, Married with Children, and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

As Coleman grew older, he earned a reputation for his explosive temper, which led to some incidents of violence that received widespread media attention. In 1998, he was charged with assault after reportedly hitting a woman who had approached the actor for an autograph. The woman had been seeking an autograph from the celebrity. He entered a plea of “no contest” to the accusation, and as a result, he was mandated to pay for the victim’s medical expenses. Coleman was arrested in July of 2007 for disorderly conduct after an altercation with his girlfriend, the actress Shannon Price, became out of control and escalated to a heated debate. Despite their challenges, the couple decided to marry privately in August of the same year. However, by the year 2008, they had already begun to experience difficulties in their marriage. In May of 2008, they took their disagreements to the television show “Divorce Court,” where they aired those disagreements in front of rapt audiences. The couple decided to remain together, and around one year later, they were again involved in a family argument. Both participants were issued citations for disorderly behavior following the altercation. Coleman, however, did not learn from his previous run-ins with the authorities, as evidenced by the fact that he was arrested for domestic violence once more in 2010 and held in jail for the night.

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Health Problems and Death

Coleman has also been in the news due to his deteriorating health. On February 26, 2010, he experienced a seizure while working on the set of The Insider. After falling at home on May 26, 2010, he was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah, for treatment. This occurred on the same day. Coleman suffered an intracranial hemorrhage that ultimately led to his passing on May 28, 2010, at 42, in Provo, Utah.

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