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The Career of Gary Coleman

Updated on June 30, 2013

Gary Coleman, best known for his role on Diff’rent Strokes, was born on February 8, 1968 in Zion, Illinois.  He was diagnosed with a kidney disease which stunted his growth at 4 feet 8 inches.  He received two kidney transplants, but continued to suffer a plethora of illnesses including seizures and depression throughout his lifetime.

Arnold Jackson

Gary Coleman as Arnold
Gary Coleman as Arnold

Gary as Arnold

Coleman played Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes from 1978 until 1986.  In addition, he made several guest appearances as Arnold on other TV shows such as, The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, and Amazing Stories.  He even appeared as Arnold Jackson-Drummond in a 1996 episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air 10 years after the Diff’rent Strokes had been cancelled. After his popular series ended, Coleman went on to guest star on television shows like, Married with Children, MaDTV, The Simpsons, Hollywood Squares, Martin, and The Drew Carrey Show, often playing himself.


During his career, which spanned from 1974 to 2009, he garnered several accolades for his acting ability.  He won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Young TV Performer four years in a row from 1980-1983.  Coleman was also recognized several times by the Young Artists Awards starting in 1980 with a win for Outstanding Contribution to Youth Through Entertainment, and with a nomination for Best Juvenile Actor in a TV Series or Special (Diff’rent Strokes).   In 1981, his portrayal of Arnold garnered him a win for Best Young Comedian and a nomination for Best Young Actor in a Television Series.  The following year, he was nominated again for Best Young Comedian - Motion Picture or Television.  In 1983, he took home the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Comedy Series.  While he was once again nominated for his work on Diff’rent Strokes in 1984 for Best Young Actor in a Comedy Series, Coleman received the award for Best Young Actor in a Movie Made for Television for the film, The Kid with the 200 I.Q.

Decades after Diff’rent Strokes went off the air, it was nominated for TV Land Awards in 2003 for Favorite Pet-Human Relationship and Quintessential Non-Traditional Family, and again in 2004 for Quintessential Non-Traditional Family.

Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman

Gary Coleman ranked #1 on VH1’s list of “100 Greatest Kid Stars,” no doubt thanks to Arnold Jackson’s unforgettable catchphrase “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Willis?”  Coleman’s final film role was in Midgets Vs Mascots in 2009.  He died on May 28, 2010 from a brain hemorrhage in Provo, Utah at the age of 42.


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    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the comments, Gary Coleman definitely lived an interesting life.

    • MikeSyrSutton profile image


      8 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      Great Hub! He was such an interesting public figure, and made a good run for Governor.

    • theirishobserver. profile image


      8 years ago from Ireland

      Great Hub - God bless his memory...Irish

    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I agree Rosemary. He struggled with a lot of health issues over the years, plus other personal troubles. I hope he's found peace.

    • profile image

      Rosemary Banks 

      8 years ago

      It is so sad to hear about his death. I had so much compassion for him trying to make a comeback in the career he had such a passion for. I'm sure he will be greatly missed.

    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      It's so sad!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Yes I saw a headline that he had passed away. RIP


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