Born on Feb. 8, 1968 in Zion, IL, a small city on the shores of Lake Michigan, 40 miles south of Chicago, Coleman was raised by his adoptive parents, Willie, who worked for a pharmaceutical company, and Sue, a nurse. By the time he was five years old, Coleman suffered from Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, a congenital kidney defect that resulted in three operations and permanently stunting his growth, leaving him standing at 4'8" for the rest of his life. But his short stature worked to his advantage when he began appearing in Chicago-area commercials - at nine years old, Coleman could pass for five. In 1978, he auditioned for a television revival of "The Little Rascals." Though the project never made it off the ground, network executives were impressed with his talent and cast him in "Diff'rent Strokes" (NBC/ABC, 1978-1986). Coleman played Arnold Jackson, a precocious eight-year-old who, along with his trouble-making brother, Willis (Todd Bridges), is adopted by a wealthy employer (Conrad Bain) and brought in to live in Manhattan with him and his teenage daughter (Dana Plato). With Coleman's pudgy cheeks, ability to pout on cue, and his oft-repeated catchphrase, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?," the show was an immediate hit. The series first aired on NBC in November 1978 and ran for six seasons, making its final appearance in August 1986 on rival network ABC. Throughout the show's run, Coleman capitalized on his image with several television movies, three of which co-starred distinguished actor Robert Guillaume. First was "The Kid from Left Field" (NBC, 1979), a remake of the 1953 movie with Dan Dailey and Anne Bancroft. Coleman played the son of a former baseball player-turned-refreshments vendor who leads the San Diego Padres from worst in the league to the World Series. After playing a homeless sh shine boy living in a train station locker in his feature film debut, "On the Right Track" (1981), he teamed up with Guillaume once again in "The Kid with the Broken Halo" (NBC, 1982), a children's fantasy about a child angel (Coleman) who returns to Earth to save three souls. Rounding out their creative partnership between Coleman and Guillaume was "The Kid with the 200 I.Q." (1983), a melodrama about a precocious kid with a large IQ, but no confidence or maturity. Following ht end of the show, Coleman would struggle both personally and professionally, facing numerous health problems over the years. In 2010, Coleman was rushed to the hospital for a fall he had taken at his Utah home. It was determined by doctors that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage. Only two days after the incident, the decision was made to remove the actor from life support. He was 42 years old.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Cast as Arnold Jackson in the NBC sitcom, "Diff'rent Strokes"
Auditioned for a television revival of "The Little Rascals"; series was never produced
TV movie debut in "The Kid from Left Field" (NBC) opposite Robert Guillaume
Re-teamed with Robert Guillaume for the NBC TV movie, "The Kid with the Broken Halo"
Lent his voice to the Hanna-Barbera animated series, "The Gary Coleman Show" (NBC)
Third and final collaboration with Robert Guillaume in the NBC TV movie, "The Kid with the 200 I.Q."
Appeared on an episode of "Married... with Children" (Fox), playing a building code inspector
Reprised his role of Arnold Jackson on the final episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC)
Played himself on an episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox) titled "Grift of the Magi"
Entered the California recall election; finished a respectable eighth place among 135 candidates, with Arnold Schwarzenegger winnning
Featured in the second season of The WB reality series, "The Surreal Life"