Gary Coleman, best known for his portrayal of the lovable, wisecracking Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes, died today in a Utah hospital. The 42-year-old actor suffered an intracranial hemorrhage after falling at his Santaquin, Utah, home on Wednesday, and slipped into a coma on Thursday.
The Illinois-born Coleman, who suffered from a kidney disease that stunted his growth and required him to undergo two transplant operations, found fame early in life, guest starring on The Jeffersons and Good Times before scoring a starring role in 1978 at the age of 10 on the NBC sitcom Diff’rent Strokes as one of two adopted sons of a rich widower. Coleman delighted audiences with his vibrant, seasoned performance, and “Whatchoo talkin’ about, Willis?”—his rapid-fire exclamation of disbelief uttered to his on-screen brother (Todd Bridges)—became one of TV’s most memorable catchphrases. During Diff’rent Strokes eight-season run, Coleman starred in feature films such as 1981’s On the Right Track and 1982’s Jimmy The Kid, as well as TV movies like 1982’s The Kid with the Broken Halo, which served as the basis for the 1982 NBC animated series The Gary Coleman Show. In the 1990s and 2000s, he popped up on a number of TV shows, including The Ben Stiller Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Simpsons, The Drew Carey Show, and Son of the Beach. Coleman—who also ran for governor during California’s recall election in 2003, finishing in eighth place—most recently starred in the 2009 mockumentary Midgets Vs. Mascots.
Coleman had been plagued with financial issues (he filed for bankruptcy in 1999) as well as legal ones in later years, including citations for disorderly conduct following incidents with his wife, Shannon Price, whom he met on the set of the 2006 movie Church Ball. In January, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief, he was ordered to pay a fine and attend a domestic violence class. Coleman had been struggling with his health as well, suffering two seizures in 2010; one of them of occurred on the set of The Insider in February. Coleman is survived by his wife, Shannon.