I pity the fool that didn't get completely overexcited at the news that Mr. T is appearing on Dancing With The Stars, aka your favorite celebrity dance show. But if you're wondering what Mr. T has been up to during all of the years that he's been less than present in your entertainment orbit, I've got you covered. Mr. T first rose to prominence in his role as Rocky's rival, fictional boxer Clubber Lang in Rocky III in 1982, and the following year played B.A. Baracus in The A Team, an ex-army commando on the run from the U.S. government along with the rest of the team for a crime they didn't commit. His visibility was partly thanks to his image: firstly, a haircut similar to that worn by the Mandinka tribesmen (who he has cited on multiple occasions as the inspiration for his hairstyle) and, of course, his distinctive thick gold chains.
But, somewhere around the '90s, Mr. T suddenly wasn't so prominent. So while it's great that we're going to see him again on a weekly basis thanks to Dancing With The Stars Season 24 (in which he's dancing alongside Kym Herjavec), it did make me wonder what that two decade gap was about. But there's a very good explanation.
For a start, Mr. T did what all canny celebrities do and diversified his portfolio. He wasn't just an actor; he became a spokesperson for a whole range of brands. It turns out that he wasn't that absent from the small screen after all. You just had to know where to look. Mr. T appeared in commercials for Snickers, World of Warcraft, Fuze iced tea, and Fairfield Inn and Suites.
He also took up fighting for real, wrestling alongside Hulk Hogan in a few different Wrestlemanias in the '80s, and later getting inducted into the the WWE’s Hall of Fame. This was an important occasion for Mr. T for more reasons than one: a Wrestlemania match in 1985 against Canadian wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper led to a feud between the two men which lasted 30 years, with Piper going public about his dislike for Mr. T to press. But the pair finally buried the hatchet at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
However, probably the biggest reason why you haven't seen Mr. T in a while has to do with his health. In 1995, he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. The star said of his diagnosis with the disease "Can you imagine that?! ...Cancer with my name on it — personalized cancer." The experience inspired him to pen a book (which hasn't, sadly, been published) on the topic, Cancer Saved My Life (Cancer Ain't For No Wimps) which was co-written with Joyce Brooks. He told audiences at a press event for the book that writing the it was "not only to make money, but to use my own situation to give people (with cancer) hope."
However, Mr. T has still remained a name to look to in the entertainment industry, thanks to the voice work he's done. He's appeared as the Jabberwock in the 1987 TV movie Alice Through The Looking Glass, Mr T-Rex (geddit?) in The Terrible Thunderlizards, Earl Devereaux in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and has played an animated form of himself in everything from The Simpsons to Johnny Bravo.
And Mr. T also made one episode of a home-improvement show called — wait for it — I Pity The Tool. No news has been forthcoming as to why the show only lasted one episode long, but here's hoping his newfound star power persuades networks to bring back the show, in which Mr. T was shown "destroying outdated spaces to give families beautifully remodeled rooms."
See? He has been busier than you knew. I'm looking forward to him bringing all his myriad talents into play — advertising himself, using that physical strength acquired in wrestling, that survivor spirit from the toughest period of his life, and that beautiful voice — to win Dancing With The Stars.