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‘You’re Treated Like You’re Ignorant’: ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ Star Todd Bridges Recalls Facing ‘Extreme Racism’ During His Teen Stardom

Money and fame is perceived as a key to access and social elevation for some, but actor Todd Bridges knows first-hand how neither can shield even the brightest stars from life’s harshest realities.

The former child actor and teen sitcom star has experienced his fair share of success with his countless commercials as a child and roles on popular shows such as “The Waltons” and “Diff’rent Strokes.” But even America’s love of Bridges portraying a Black teen welcomed into a wealthy white family did not shield him from racism in his everyday life, he now claims. 

(From left) Todd Bridges and “Diff’rent Strokes” cast members Dana Plato (center) and Gary Coleman (right). @todd_a_bridges/Instagram

“Here you are doing something spectacular for people and people are enjoying it, but then you go outside and you’re treated like you’re ignorant, dumb and stupid,” Bridges, 55, told Page Six.

And as much as the popular sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” dealt with tough conversations and life experiences, none of it swayed the perception some had of Bridges while growing up in the spotlight.

“Not like you have some intelligence or you’re a good kid, not at all,” he said. “You see what’s going on in the world right now, you see the racism, you still have to go through it.”

Bridges — whose offscreen travails after “Diff’rent Strokes” ended included multiple drug arrests, stints in rehab, and two trials on an attempted murder charge — is far from alone in facing the world’s ability to love him onscreen but still see him as less than in real life. Actor Will Smith has entertained audiences for decades, but even the A-list actor says he has encountered racist individuals. 

“I’ve been called [N-word] to my face probably five or six times,” Will said last month in an interview on the “Pod Save America” podcast. “And fortunately for my psyche, I’ve never been called [the N-word] by a smart person. … I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect,” further explained the 52-year-old.

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