How The A-Team sparked the cult phenomenon that was Mr. T

The A-Team icon took credit for creating the character of B.A. Baracus.

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In the second season of The A-Team, an episode called "Chopping Spree" found B.A. Baracus using his van as bait in an attempt to catch car thieves.

When the van gets stolen, the mechanic B.A.’s attachment to his van becomes clear.

"Keep your eyes peeled," B.A. says in the episode. "I need my van."

His fans undoubtedly pulled for him in this moment, as Mr. T had become The A-Team’s biggest hero.

Playing B.A. was Mr. T, who instantly became The A-Team’s breakout star. Suddenly after the premiere, Mr. T was on the cover of every magazine, and he became so in-demand for interviews that newspapers reported disappointment whenever he had to decline.

In particular, Mr. T was popular with kids who watched The A-Team and marveled at the muscle man who reportedly wore $250,000 worth of gold and jewelry.

Mr. T was not surprised by his overnight cult hero status, though his much more famous costars might’ve been.

"I’ve always been a winner," Mr. T told The Alternative Press in 1983. "There’s something that sets me apart from everybody else."

The A-Team star became so popular that soon people wondered how similar to his character B.A. the real Mr. T was.

One fan named J.P. wrote into a TV column called "Ask Bob" in 1983, "Is the character of B.A. Baracus on The A-Team based on Mr. T’s personality? For example, Mr. T loves children and so does B.A."

Bob responded that B.A. Baracus is patterned after Mr. T’s "image," rather than his actual personality.

Mr. T himself said B.A. was completely his creation, though, so even if B.A. wasn’t just like Mr. T, he was a character that Mr. T shaped.

"When Stephen Cannell called me about The A-Team, I said if you let me do my thing, can’t anybody do it any better," Mr. T said. "Don’t restrict me or hold me back, it’ll flow."

Before The A-Team, Mr. T had worked as a bodyguard to the stars, protecting high-profile celebrities like Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Muhammad Ali from danger for $10,000 a day.

Once he made the switch to acting, he memorably appeared in Rocky III, leading to appearances as himself on Saturday Night Live and Silver Spoons in 1982.

But once The A-Team premiered, Mr. T became a household name, earning $80,000 a week for his role as B.A., with Bob from "Ask Bob" describing in detail why exactly Mr. T was worth every penny, because the muscle man was so universally appealing:

"He’s the strong father image some kids have never known. He’s the guy you always prayed would happen along when some bully picked on you at the playground. And he’s the guy grownups secretly envy for his ability to deal decisively with confrontations most of us might run from."

He praised Mr. T for turning down lucrative but unsavory roles that would have alienated young fans. "Even if he’s a short-lived phenomenon, the T-Man is currently riding the crest of a well-orchestrated public relations campaign that will leave him a very wealthy man. I think he deserves every buck he makes."

"Mr. T was smart enough to realize there was a gold mine out there if he approached it correctly. In my opinion, he’s made all the right moves."

Once Mr. T gained his overnight fame, his first move was to build a house for his mom, who had raised him and his 11 siblings all on her own.

He also spent every extra second not doing press spending time at his church and volunteering with young kids who had grown up living in poverty, becoming just as famous for sharing his wealth with the less fortunate.

In his real life he was known as a sensitive and religious man, and Mr. T was grateful The A-Team gave him the springboard to security his family had always sought and prayed for.

But he ultimately took credit for shaping the image of both Mr. T and B.A., and becoming the sort of cult phenomenon that still persists in pop culture memory today.

"There’s just a certain chemistry that I have that draws people to me," Mr. T said. "Maybe they’re awed in my presence, or maybe they like me... Like I said, not being cocky or conceited, everything I touch turns to gold. I know if I do my best, God’ll do the rest."

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RS1515 18 months ago
I think Mr. T got his big break in the early 80s, 1981 or 1982. He was on a tough guy show and Sylvester Stallone happen to see him. Because of that he later starred in a Rocky movie.
snichols1973 19 months ago
Dear MeTV:

Some summer rerun programming works out well; unfortunately, at least in my opinion, adding the A-Team has turned out to be a disappointment. I may very well be watching other rerun programming on other channels, until some more interesting and entertaining programming airs in the 5 and 5:30 PM timeslots. Until then, 5 to 6 PM will be an "unhappy hour"; during this time, I may very well find something more interesting than seeing programming that is airing in spite of popularity.

I rate this current timeslot as an 'F-minus'...
JimmyD 21 months ago
I remember first seeing Mr.T on a TV special called "The Worlds Toughest Bouncer". Had to look it up, but it was in 1980, man I'm old. This exposure, according to Wikiprobablytrue, is what led to his role as Clubber Lang.
BuckeyeBeth 21 months ago
Mr. T is most definitely not B.A. Baracus. B.A. is a man of few words and Mr. T is a man of few quiet moments. Multiple sources, including his costars, have confirmed that Mr. T would start talking, joking, and telling stories non-stop from the moment he got on the set until the moment he left at the end of the day. It didn’t even matter if no one was there to listen it was just a continuous conversation Mr. T kept up that would cycle through people as he walked 😆.

The part of his personality that was the same was his love for kids and his desire to help them and visit them in the hospital. Mr. T did a lot of work with children including terminally ill children. Dwight and Dirk have spoken at conventions about having the utmost admiration for Mr. T and his work with children.
WickedPrayers 22 months ago
Actually, I hate to say it but Mr. T was not supposed to be such a nice guy. If I remember, in the final seasons of The A-Team, he got called out for charging little kids for his autograph and there were tensions with him on set with the other actors as well. I remember George Peppard on ET saying into the camera that Mr. T had no morals for charging kids before A_Team producers stepped in and told him to zip it. As for his fortune, a few years ago he was living in a run down house and battling cancer. He probably has made some money recently in commercials. That's what I remember happening.
AndreaZ WickedPrayers 22 months ago
Peppard was known as the biggest D bag and most actors hated working with him. I'd need a much better source than him.
BuckeyeBeth WickedPrayers 21 months ago
I remember when that rumor was going around. I’m not sure where it got started because I don’t remember the ET interview and I can’t seem to find it on YouTube. I’m not saying I don’t believe you saw George say it, i’m just doubting how much truth there was to it. From what I understand George could be a massive ahole. I’ve seen more than one convention footage of Dwight Schultz talking about the first time he met George Peppard on the first day in the make-up trailer. He said George walked up to him and said “My name is George Peppard and I am not a nice man”. I don’t think it would have been outside of George’s personality to say something that wasn’t true when he was angered. I know George thought he was the star of the A-Team, he was after all a former massive movie star, and I know Mr. T thought he was the star of the A-Team. I think this probably ruffled the feathers of the gentleman when the other one wouldn’t acknowledge that they in fact were the stars.
UTZAAKE 22 months ago
Mr. T first became famous as the bodyguard for heavyweight boxer Leon Spinks in the late-1970s. His "The A-Team Wants You" TV commercials were spoofed by Chicago's WLUP-FM 97.9 morning drive personality Jonathon Brandmeier at the height of the program's popularity.
vinman63 22 months ago
I met him at a book signing a very nice guy. He was about 5 10
F5Twitster 22 months ago
I don't understand how anyone can write an article about Mr. T and not get the chronology right (or, more correctly, simply ignore the ACTUAL story of Mr. T's journey to "The A-Team"): that he became a public figure, and popular, in his role as Clubber Lang, Rocky Balboa's ring nemesis in "Rocky III," a year before he first appeared in "The A-Team."

Full credit belongs to director Sylvester Stallone and the film's casting depaprtment for finding and signing T. to play Clubber; without his exposure in "Rocky III"? it's highly likely that "The A-Team"s B.A. Baracus would've been played by another actor.
AndreaZ F5Twitster 22 months ago
I'm convinced that MeTv hires college interns and kids straight out of Journalism school to churn out these "articles" that contain very little context. If they're anything like Yahoo these writers get $5oo for each article. (think of those Yahoo stories like "The 10 things a flight attendant will never tell you." or "I stopped drinking alcohol for 10 days and this is what happened." It's all about the clicks and comments.
CoreyC 22 months ago
Mr. T. hated the movie remake and wanted nothing to do with it.
LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Good story. An enjoyable actor who seems to put family first. He showed his humorous side sometimes in commercials, promos and TV/film. He does appear humble in some interviews he has done.
AgingDisgracefully 22 months ago
True. Until the '80s, fools were never pitied.
Coldnorth 22 months ago
mr T was always my favorite. On the A Team. The interaction between him and Murdock was the best part. Lots of humor in a violent show. Not violent in today’s standard but for the time it was, though nobody got hurt. I have the full DVD set and watch it once in a while. Lots of things are cut out for commercials on tv
Pacificsun 22 months ago
I like the last line best. There was some repetition in the stony. I think we got the point of his success. Would've been interesting if "Mr. T" spoke a little more from his own personality. But maybe that's where his humility is evident.

Thanks for the story, MeTV Staff!
CaptainDunsel 22 months ago
I remember once seeing John Houseman do a rif on his investment house commercials. "I have watched Mr. T act, and I can tell you he earns his money the old-fashioned way... He steals it!"
Barry22 22 months ago
Don't forget his animated series.
KawiVulc 22 months ago
"I pity the fool don't eat my cereal!" - Pee Wee Herman, "Pee Wee's Big Adventure".

Good to know Mr. T's one of the good guys.
Runeshaper 22 months ago
"I know if I do my best, God’ll do the rest." That right there is pure gold.
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