Sad news: Windell D. Middlebrooks, best-known for playing the Miller High Life delivery man in a series of TV commercials, has died, according to TMZ.
Middlebrooks, who is from Fort Worth and is an alumnus of Trimble Tech High School, was 36, the website reports.
Citing “sources close to Middlebrooks,” TMZ says that the actor was found unconscious at his home in the San Fernando Valley on Monday morning and was transported by ambulance to a hospital. It’s unclear whether he was pronounced dead at home or at the hospital, the website reports.
According to IMDB, Middlebrooks was born Jan. 8, 1979, in Fort Worth. He had regular roles in ABC’s Body of Proof and the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life on Deck, which also featured Fort Worth’s Debby Ryan. In Body of Proof, which ran from 2011 to 2013, Middlebrooks played a deputy medical examiner trying to prove himself to a prickly boss played by lead actress Dana Delany.
Middlebrooks’ name appeared in the Star-Telegram several times before his commercial and acting careers brought him a measure of fame. He was active at Trimble Tech, winning acting awards and organizing a march in 1995 (when he was sophomore class president) against a plan to scrap the school’s athletics program.
He studied theater at Sterling College in Kansas and the University of California, Irvine, and scored roles in The Bernie Mac Show, My Name is Earl, Veronica Mars and other series.
But he was best-known for the Miller commercials, in which he played a delivery guy humorously ranting against pretentious people and making sure the Miller beer wound up in the hands of hard-working Americans. The commercials became part of Miller’s Super Bowl ad campaign, raising Middlebrooks’ profile further — especially when one of the ads featured him opining on other Super Bowl ads.
(In 2009, Middlebrooks was featured in a much-hyped series of “1-second” Miller ads during the game, but the ads didn’t air in DFW because no NBC-owned local station — including KXAS/Channel 5 — would sell MillerCoors the airtime.)
“[The commercials] are having a big impact on people,” he told the Star-Telegram in 2007. “You hear people saying, ‘Y’all must be crazy!’ and ‘Cleanup on aisle common sense.’ I was in the store the other day and a guy came up and asked if I was the High Life man.”
Middlebrooks actually spent a day traveling with real Miller delivery guys. “I tell you what, it’s hard work,” he said in 2007. “It’s something I could do, but we make it look easy in the commercial. They’re going up and down stairs with cases of beer, and they do it with a smile. That’s why I said, ‘Y’all need some recognition for what y’all do.’ "
Middlebrooks grew up in the Riverside neighborhood east of downtown Fort Worth, and often returned to the city. He remained a supporter of Trimble Tech, campaigning to save admission standards at the school, and helped finance and organize a production of Neil Simon’s play God’s Favorite at the school in summer 2009. He was also master of ceremonies at Texas Wesleyan University’s “Big Read” 2011 literacy event that benefited Tarrant Area Food Bank.
According to a Feb. 24 press release from pay-cable network Starz, Middlebrooks has a guest role in an upcoming series titled Blunt Talk, which stars Patrick Stewart as a British expatriate intent on conquering U.S. cable news. The series is set to premiere in summer 2015.
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.