He is an American actor who is best known for his childhood role as Willis Jackson on the NBC/ABC sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, and for his recurring role as Monk on the UPN/CW sitcom Everybody Hates Chris.
Todd was born in San Francisco, California. He became the first African-American child actor to have a recurring role on a successful TV series, The Waltons and has also appeared on Little House on the Prairie, and in the landmark miniseries Roots. He was a regular on the Barney Miller spinoff Fish. However, it was as young Willis Jackson on the long-running television sitcom Diff’rent Strokes that he made his name, along with fellow child co-stars Dana Plato and Gary Coleman. Todd survives both Plato and Coleman, who died in May 1999 and May 2010, respectively.
Todd appeared as a contestant on a 2006 celebrity episode of Fear Factor, but was eliminated after the first stunt. In January 2007, he appeared as a member of the “mob” on the US version of the game show 1 vs. 100. He appeared on MyNetworkTV’s new show, Decision House with his wife, Dori Bridges on the episode titled, “Burned Bridges” which aired on November 14, 2007. He also had a recurring role on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris as Monk.
In March 2008, Todd appeared on truTV’s Tru tv Presents: World’s Dumbest…; he continues to appear as a frequent commentator. That same year in October, he debuted as one of the contestants on Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling on the CMT Network. He was a member of Team Beefcake (coached by former wrestler Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake). On the show, Todd’s wrestling persona was the character “Mr. Not So Perfect.” The judges praised him for his athleticism. After reaching the finals along with Butterbean and Dustin Diamond, Todd was defeated by Dennis Rodman.
Todd wrote a book, “Killing Willis”, discussing his drug addiction, criminal charges, and efforts to establish a public identity independent of the character, “Willis”, he portrayed. He appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 28, 2010 to discuss his life as a child star and the legal troubles that followed.
He appeared as a contestant on the Fox reality show Skating with Celebrities, but was eliminated on the second episode of the show. Todd also defeated Vanilla Ice on a 2002 episode of Celebrity Boxing.
In 2011, Bridges appeared in the video for The Black Keys song “Howlin’ for You.”
In 1998, Todd and his brother James Bridges were credited with saving the life of a 51 year old paraplegic woman, Stella Kline. The woman nearly drowned when her wheelchair rolled into a lake while she was fishing. Quoting Kline, “I was thanking God that he was there, and you know, everybody’s been saying nothing but bad stuff about Todd Bridges on the news and in the papers . . . He has a heart of gold.” Todd remarked on the rescue, “We felt God put us there at the right time to save this lady’s life, because there was no one else around.”
In his 20s, Todd battled a crack cocaine addiction for several years. In 1988, he was arrested and tried for the attempted murder of Kenneth “Tex” Clay, a Los Angeles area drug dealer who, prosecutors argued, had been shot by Todd while on a binge. Todd pleaded not guilty to the charges and was represented by the high-profile defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. Cochran successfully portrayed Todd as an abused minor who had been driven to drugs by an exploitative entertainment industry, and was now being unfairly framed. A witness finally testified that Todd was not present at the time of the shooting. Todd was acquitted of all charges by a jury.
In 1993, Todd was involved in an altercation with a tenant, David Joseph Kitchen, in his house after Todd found Kitchen in his room with a fifteen year old girl. Kitchen attacked Todd with a sword, then Todd retaliated by stabbing him in the chest with a kitchen knife. The prosecutors dropped the charges, concluding Todd had acted in self-defense.
Todd has a brother, Jimmy Bridges, and a sister, Verda Bridges who are both actors. Todd’s mother, Betty A. Bridges, was also an actress. Todd and Dori Bridges have one son, Spencir Bridges (born July 16, 1998) who is also a child actor and appeared in the film Daddy Day Camp and one episode on iCarly.
Todd continues to appear in television show projects and films.