11 Ex-Cons Who Made It To Hollywood

June 24, 2014: Before turning to Hollywood, these actors led a life of crime.

Being a convicted criminal has a stigma attached to it that is hard to shed, but these 11 stars have successfully done just that. They committed crimes and served prison sentences before finding a fresh start in showbiz. Check out who these ex-jailbirds are:

Danny Trejo

Do you know why Danny Trejo is so convincing when playing the badass villain in movies? That's because he used to be one before his Hollywood career. Throughout the 1960s, the Machete actor was in and out of jail in California.

Greg Mathis


Everyone knows that reality court show Judge Mathis' titular protagonist was a real District Court judge. Not many, however, know that he is a former Detroit street gang member. In the 1970s, he was arrested numerous times.

Felicia Pearson


At the age of 14, the Wire villainess was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a girl named Okia Toomer and sentenced to two eight-year terms.

Tim Allen

On October 2, 1978, Allen was arrested in the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for possession of over 650 grams (1.43 lbs.) of cocaine. He subsequently pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges, and provided the names of other dealers in exchange for a sentence of three to seven years rather than possible life imprisonment. The ex-convict quickly turned his life around after prison and became one of America’s favorite comedic actors.

Snoop Dogg

As a teenager, Snoop was a member of the Rollin' 20 Crips gang. Before turning to gangster rapping and acting, he was a regular in Southern Californian jails for dealing and possessing drugs.

Melvin Williams

Actor Melvin Williams was all virtuous or sanctimonious in his role of a deacon in the HBO drama series, The Wire. In real life and before his acting career though, he was a drug trafficker and organized crime figure in his native Baltimore, Md.

Tony Sirico

The Sopranos actor Tony Sirico, who played Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri in the hit HBO series, was arrested a total of 28 times during his youth on charges ranging from robbery, drugs and felony weapons possessions.

DeAndre McCullough


DeAndre McCullough, the actor who plays Lamar in The Wire, was the real life drug addict who provided the inspiration for the series' prequel, The Corner. During his years on the streets, he was arrested and put behind bars on numerous occasions.


Donnie Andrews


Donnie Andrews committed a double murder in 1986 before turning himself in. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. In the slammer, he turned over a new leaf and eventually became an anti-crime advocate. He was paroled in 2005, after which his former way of operation on the streets partially provided the inspiration for The Wire's famous character Omar Little. He had a cameo in the series, too.


50 Cent

Fiddy was also a drug dealer in his teens and once sold four vials of cocaine to an undercover police officer, for which he was arrested. In 2000, he was shot nine times by an unknown gunman, after which he got serious about his music career and ended up being the star he is today.

Charles S. Dutton

At age 17, Dutton got into a fight which resulted in the death of a man. Dutton was charged and convicted of manslaughter, and he spent the next seven years in prison. In a separate prison stint, he was even sent to solitary confinement for six days, during which time he read an anthology of black playwrights. It piqued his interest in drama so much that he went on to complete his GED and even earned a master's degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama. He subsequently pursued a career in acting..

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