Lister’s manager, Cindy Cowan, told PEOPLE that although the “Fifth Element” star did not test positive for the novel coronavirus before his death, he died on Thursday, Dec. 10, after showing “COVID symptoms” for a week.
Cowan told the media outlet that a friend went to check up on the actor at his home after he didn’t return their calls since Wednesday night. TMZ reported that Lister was found unresponsive at his apartment in Marina Del Rey, California, after L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deputies went to his residence to perform a welfare check around 3 p.m. The outlet said Lister was pronounced dead at the scene. No cause of death has been determined.
Lister was scheduled to work on a project over the weekend, but canceled on Friday. “He was just really complaining, but he was too weak to go to the doctor,” Cowan said in a statement.
The celebrity manager described the former wrestler as a “gentle giant and one-of-a-kind.” She added, “A man that’s like been a brother to me for 20 years.”
News of Lister’s death spread throughout social media late Thursday as fans and celebrities sent their prayers and condolences. “Friday” co-star and rapper Ice Cube paid tribute to the late actor on Instagram late Thursday night. “RIP Tiny “Deebo” Lister. America’s favorite bully was a born entertainer who would pop into character at the drop of a hat terrifying people on and off camera. Followed by a big smile and laugh.” The rapper captioned a photo of Lister in his iconic role as Debo in the ’90s comedy movie. He added, “Thank you for being a good dude at heart. I miss you already.”
The post received over 1 million likes and 22,000 comments from fans devastated by the untimely loss. Rapper Busta Rhymes commented underneath Cube’s post, “Damn this year is a different type of different f-cked up. 🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿🤲🏿.”
J.D. Witherspoon, son of the late actor John Witherspoon, who worked with Lister on “Friday,” tweeted, “Rest In Peace Tiny Lister, my Dad always enjoyed working with you. Take care of each other up there. #RIPDeebo.”
Lister began his career in the entertainment industry as a wrestler by the name of Zeus. He would later go on to appear in films such as “Runaway Train,” “Blue City,” and “Beverly Hills Cop II.” In addition to film, Lister made several appearances in music videos and television shows, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Moesha,” and “The Jamie Foxx Show.”
Lister is survived by his wife, Felicia Forbes, and his 12-year-old daughter, Faith Grace.