Tough Guy

       You also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's completely sold-out to the God whose love he proclaims wherever he goes. If you were around in the mid-80's, you probably remember him as "B.A. Baracus," the formidable, jewelry-clad "tough guy" in the television hit series, The A-Team. Before that, he was beaten up pretty badly when he boxed against Sylvester Stallone in the movie, Rocky III.

       Have you figured it out yet? Yes, he's Mr. T. and these days, he's playing a tough guy again. Only this time, he's pitted against the forces of evil running rampant during the reign of the Anti-Christ. The movie is Judgment, and Mr. T plays J.T. Quincy, the leader of a group called the Haters; they fight the establishment - in this case, the Devil himself. Judgment, to be released next year, is produced by Cloud Ten Pictures, the same company that produced Left Behind, the Movie.

        "This is the first time I've worked with this production company," says Mr. T, "and everybody kept telling me how excited they were to have me in the movie. But I told them, 'Man, I'm the one who's excited, because this gives me a chance to go in there with God and let everybody see that I meant what I've been saying all these years!' "

       Mr. T says he wants people to perceive his character in Judgment as a kind of "Christian Rocky"- a tough guy, but one who's not ashamed to stand up for the Lord. He says the role also gives him the opportunity to witness to others.

        "People are like sponges," he explains. "If you're a celebrity, they're all ears. I use my celebrity status as a way to talk to them about my relationship with God. And on the set, they can watch how I live my life every day. I say the blessing before my meals, and I play my religious tapes loud enough so they can hear them. I pray that God will give me strength every day to be a witness for Him."

       Mr. T laughs when he tells about the chauffeur who drove him to and from the set every day. The chauffeur asked if Mr. T wanted to listen to the radio. He told him, "no," he wanted to listen to his religious tapes. "He was forced to listen to my tapes," he chuckled; "he was a captive audience!" The great thing, though, was that the chauffeur told Mr. T he had been touched by what he heard and how Mr. T conducted himself every day.

        "My goal as an actor is to do two things," remarks Mr. T. "One, I want to entertain, and two, I want to get a message across."

       Born Laurence Tureaud in southside Chicago on May 21, 1952, Mr. T is the second youngest of 12 children. His father was a minister, and his mother "taught him constantly about God." Because of her strong influence, he grew up without getting into too much trouble, except for one spell between 5th and 7th grades when he went a little astray - playing hooky, cursing, acting tough and being disrespectful.

       Since he lived in the Chicago ghetto, his brothers encouraged him to build up his body in order to survive. It was this background that caused him to continue bodybuilding into adulthood. His jobs included working both as a bodyguard and a bouncer. He changed his name to Laurence Tero in 1970 and later to Mr. T so "people would have to address [him] as 'Mr.'"

       Mr. T was "discovered" in 1982 by Sylvester Stallone when he was taking part in "The World's Toughest Bouncer" contest on the TV show, Games People Play. Stallone hired him for Rocky III and "beefed up" his role as Rocky's boxing opponent. The next year, Mr. T was hired for The A-Team and has acted in several movies, including The Toughest Man in the World, Penitentiary II, and the syndicated television series T and T.

       In 1995, something happened to Mr. T that changed his life forever. He discovered he had cancer. It was necessary for him to take radiation treatments, which weakened his body, but not his resolve. "Challenges make us strong," he says. "We know storms are going to come. It's how we handle ourselves in the storms that counts. We have to be gripped to the solid rock, like tree roots growing around a huge rock.

        "I've been fighting cancer for five years. How do I keep my faith? Well, before I was talkin' it, but now I'm walkin' it. We've got to show our faith by our lives. I needed cancer to test my faith. Now I'm writing a book, How Cancer Saved My Life (due out next year)."

        "I love little kids," Mr. T continues, "and God used my cancer to show me how to minister to them. I've worked with a lot of kids in organizations like Make A Wish Foundation. I used to visit those kids and try to cheer them up and give them faith to keep going. Then when I got cancer, I had to have faith in the same God I had told them about. It really opened my eyes."

       Mr. T firmly believes God made it possible for him to be an actor so he could share God's love with people who may not have any other opportunity to hear it. "God put me in this position," he says, "and He is richer than any Hollywood producer. There've been parts I've turned down because they had too much cursing and violence in them. So when the acting parts come slowly, I don't worry, 'cause I know God will take care of me. Just look at the opportunity He's given me by letting me be in Judgment! I hope people will come to see the movie for whatever reason, but when they leave, I hope they'll be thinking about their relationship with the Lord."