Windell D. Middlebrooks, best known as Miller High Life delivery man in the beer company’s commercials, has died at 36, according to TMZ.com.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was Found Dead at His California Home
According to TMZ, Middlebrooks was found unconscious at his San Fernando Valley home Monday morning.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Middlebrooks’ family called his death, “the passing of a young black star.” They did not provide any other details and asked for privacy.
2. His Cause of Death Isn’t Yet Known
TMZ reports that no foul play is suspected.
It was not clear if Middlebrooks was pronounced dead at his home or after being taken to a hospital by ambulance, according to TMZ.
3. He Was a Cult Hero to Many
Featuring an “everyman” personality, Middlebrooks quickly became a star through his Miller High Life deliveryman role. He talked to the University of California-Irvine’s news site last year about landing the commercial gig, his first big role, in November 2006, a year after graduating from Irvine with a master’s in fine arts. Middlebrooks said:
At the first audition, they didn’t even have me speak – they just wanted to see if I could move beer on a hand truck. Then they asked me to come back for another audition. They kept throwing lines at me – like ‘Step aside, mon amie!’ I did it with an attitude. So they booked me for three commercials, and at first I thought I’d have lines in one of them and just be moving beer in the other two. And they’re like, ‘No, you are the guy’ [for all the spots]. I called up Steve [Ivey, his agent] and said, ‘I’m the dude!’ We shot the commercials, and everyone was nervous. Here they were showing a guy taking their product back [from the French restaurant]. After they started to run, the ads put Miller back on the map. And they were like, ‘We need more.’
4. He Starred in Many Other Roles on TV
His role as a no-nonsense Miller High Life deliveryman just trying to help people enjoy an affordable and tasty beer may have been Middlebrooks’ most famous role, but he’s also been a familiar face on TV comedies, including as a series regular on ABC’s Body of Proof, which ended in 2013. During the show’s three seasons he played Dr. Curtis Brumfield, a deputy chief medical examiner. The show was a drama series about medical examiner Dr. Megan Hunt, played by Dana Delaney
He has also had roles on FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, NBC’s Parks and Recreation and Scrubs, ABC’s Cougar Town and Disney Channel’s Suite Life on Deck.
5. He Was Born & Raised in Texas
Middlebrooks was born and grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. He eventually found his way to Sterling College in Kansas, where he received a degree in theatre and communications.
He then went on to get his master’s of fine arts from UC-Irvine.
In an interview three weeks ago with UC Irvine’s alumni news as part of a Black History Month feature. Middlebrooks talked about finding his way to the California school:
I knew I had the timing, I had the humor, but I wanted to learn how to make it happen when I needed it to happen – over and over. I just didn’t feel ready. I felt I needed to go to grad school. I chose UC Irvine because I wanted a program on the West Coast that was close to the industry but far enough away for me to focus on acting, where I could take the time to learn what I bring to the table.
Middlebrooks said the beer commercials helped him land new roles:
I became so recognized. A lot of my other auditions came from those ads. All Steve had to say was, “You know that black guy in the Miller High Life commercials?” And they’d be like, “Oh, yeah, we want to see him.” That’s how I got the role of Kirby on “Suite Life” and the audition for Curtis.
And he was hoping for more:
I love each genre – film, stage, television. I’m reading film scripts, but I want to choose the right projects. I love the stage and want to perform on Broadway someday. I also eventually want to do a multicamera sitcom, because I love comedy. I’m that eclectic. If you’re riding with me in my car, you might hear Rascal Flatts, Jay-Z or Whitney [Houston]. I love different things.