Whatever Happened To The Kid From Role Models?

In a movie with comedy heavy-hitters such as Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, there probably should not have been room for a standout performance. Apparently, nobody explained that to Bobb'e J. Thompson, the kid who played Ronnie in 2008's Role Models, because that young man stole the show so hard that even Roger Ebert noted in his review of the film that "Thompson will have his own show on Comedy Central before he's 25."

As of this writing, Thompson hasn't reached that age — He celebrated his 22nd birthday in 2018 — or that particular accomplishment, but that's not to say that he won't. Since Role Models, he's gone on to star alongside Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost, play Tracy Morgan's son on 30 Rock, and land recurring roles on two Tyler Perry TV series. And acting isn't even his primary career goal.

Since 2014, Thompson has focused his creative energy on rapping, but he still takes the occasional TV gig. Though this multi-talented star may not be a household name, we guarantee most people would know you're not talking about McLovin when you say "the kid from Role Models." Let's take a look at whatever happened to him.

Trading the film set for the recording studio

Long before he was the kid from Role Models, one of Bobb'e J. Thompson's first forays into show business was an appearance on Showtime at the Apollo when he was just 5 years old. Thompson crushed his version of Bow Wow's "That's My Name," then went on to steady work on TV series such as The Tracy Morgan Show, That's So Raven, and Human Giant.

He finally circled back to his true passion, music, around 2013, when he released Fade 2 Rap, his debut album under the rapper handle King Bobb'e J. From there it was a mixtape in 2014, and more recently, lots of freestyle recordings on his Soundcloud page. Though he hasn't reached the kind of mainstream recognition in the rap game as he has in the film and TV world, Thompson says that music is his first love. 

When asked by Bossip in 2014 if acting is his biggest passion, Thompson said, "Absolutely not. I still to this day have a divine love for music." He also promised, "I got a lot of music in the can that I'm gonna hit the people over the head with here soon, but everything is about timing. At this time, acting is where it's at for me and when it's time for me to release the music, ya'll hear it, ya'll know."

Pint-sized Pitchman

In addition to film and television, Thompson also had a few big gigs in commercial acting. According to The Skanner, it was hot off of his parts in Role Models, Land of the Lost, and Imagine That when Thompson landed a major Nike basketball campaign in 2009. In it, he voices the puppet Lil Dez (above), the hyperactive thorn in the sides of puppet Kobe and puppet LeBron.

One year later, Thompson took his talents to the gaming world, where he landed the role of Marcus Rivers in an ad campaign that attempted to market Sony's PSP handheld device to adolescent gamers. Again, the role seemed tailor-made for the kinetic comic abilities of Thompson, who embodies the campaign's tagline, "Step your game up," in a way that perhaps no other pitchman could.

In fact, prior to transforming into Marcus Rivers, Thompson seemed to harness his fictional spirit during a 2009 interview at The Guy's Choice Awards when he threw out his personal gamertag, iPurpleRangerX, and claimed he would "whoop" anyone who challenged him in a laundry list of titles. His preferred battleground at the time was XBox Live, but we have a feeling that changed significantly with the receipt of a big fat check from Sony.

His first lead role fizzled

As successful as Thompson was early on in his acting career, he didn't land a starring role until 2014 in School Dance. He gives all the credit for his leading-man status in the raunchy coming-of-age comedy to Nick Cannon, whom he frequently cites as a friend and mentor in the entertainment business. In fact, as of this writing, Thompson is a cast member on Cannon's MTV improv comedy show Wild 'N Out

Speaking with KTLA, Thompson shed light on what it was like to be directed by Cannon, who made his directorial debut with School Dance. "Nick Cannon is an awesome director," Thompson said. "He knows the business ... He studies hard and he's more of a perfectionist. He don't like mediocre ... He's gonna make sure it's the best of the best that he can give."

Unfortunately, three out of the just four critics who bothered to review the film for Rotten Tomatoes gave it a "rotten" rating, with Brian Orndorff at Blu-Ray.com going so far as to describe it as "awful," calling Cannon "a network talent show host and Disney personality who's desperately trying to shed his squeaky clean image." Oof. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thompson has yet to book another starring role to date.  

Bobb'e Says got silenced pretty quickly

During promotion for Role Models, Thompson told KTLA about his next project — a live-action "clip show on Cartoon Network" called Bobb'e Says. "It's kinda like America's Funniest Home Videos, but ... more for kids" was how Thompson described it. The show was part of Cartoon Network's CN Real block of programming, which was a shift away from its traditional animated fare. Unfortunately, that change wasn't particularly well-received by the network's general audience.

The ratings for Bobb'e Says weren't the best, and neither were the critical reviews. Common Sense Media said the show "will rub parents the wrong way in light of issues like peer pressure and bullying." Though Thompson teased a second season with the possibility of some "Bobb'e Bloopers" to KTLA, the series was cancelled before round two saw the light of day.

Turning tragedy into activism

In 2010, Thompson became the youth ambassador for The Black AIDS Institute, a think tank dedicated to stopping "the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in unapologetically Black efforts to confront HIV." As part of his efforts with the organization, a then-14-year-old Thompson recorded a PSA in which he reveals the sobering statistic that in 2006, "the majority of youth aged 13 – 24 with AIDS who died were black."

Thompson also has a personal connection to the AIDS epidemic, as he outlined to No More Down Low in 2010. "I recently just lost my aunt to HIV/AIDS," he said at the time. "So that's what made it very important to me. It made me really, really take action, because it affected me and my loved ones, so I'm not only here doing this just for me, I'm doing it for family."

'I could have lost my life'

Thompson doesn't make the news, or even the celebrity tabloids, very often. In fact, he told Bossip that he actively avoids "giving people much to say about [him] that is negative" by trying to only "focus on the positive." That's probably why the only tabloid headline we uncovered about him was a story from TMZ reporting that Thompson and a friend were in a scary car accident in February 2017.

"I could have lost my life," Thompson said in a video statement to the tab. He was describing how he and Lincoln Heights actor Zachary Williams had to jump out of Williams' mom's minivan as it suddenly fell into a 20-foot sinkhole. They even sprang into action to help another motorist whose car had also plunged into the supersized pothole. "Now that I know that, like, literally the ground will just open up whenever it feel like it ... I don't want to go to sleep," Thompson joked. "Like I don't want me and my bed to fall in the middle of the ground."

We'd be lying if we said we weren't interested in the audio from the moment that car went into the sinkhole. Obviously, we're thankful that nobody was injured in the terrifying incident, but we just know a little bit of Thompson's inner-Ronnie had to have come out on that one.

Big things come in small packages

Though he's already accomplished much, Thompson shows no signs of slowing. In 2014, interviewer Kam Williams' asked, "When you look in the mirror, what do you see?" Thompson replied, "I see an ambitious young man who will one day have it all."

And if "have it all" seemed a bit ambiguous, Thompson clarified by saying, "I think when it's all said and done, I need 5 Grammys, 6 Oscars, a few Emmys and a couple of NAACP Awards. The whole 9 yards. My dream is to be one of the winningest entertainers ever. I just want my work to be recognized as well as the effort I put in."

Thompson even compared himself to an artist of similar stature, Will Smith, telling BlackFilm that Smith's character, Mike Lowrey, in Bad Boys is his "dream role." At 4'11," Thompson may not fit the typical mold for such a role, but that never stopped Tom Cruise from becoming one of the most bankable action stars in the world, and it certainly didn't hold back Kevin Hart, who rose above his peers with bold self-deprecation. So keep dreaming, kid, because we can't wait to see what you do next!