British-Ghanaian actor and model Sam Sarpong, known for co-hosting MTV’s “Yo Momma” and presenting the BET Award for Best International Act, died Monday, his rep confirmed. He was 40.
Sarpong died after jumping off a bridge in Pasadena, Calif., according to E! News. The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner has ruled his death a suicide, with an autopsy pending.
“It is with great sadness that the family of Samuel Sarpong, Jr. must share the news that Sam has passed away,” said his publicist in a statement. “The circumstances surrounding his death are currently under investigation and no additional details are known at this time. Information about final arrangements will be forthcoming. The family appreciates the thoughts prayers and other expressions of sympathy, and request their privacy be respected at this extremely difficult time.”
“[Sarpong] had a pure heart and always went out of his way to help others,” his rep, J.D. Sobol, told Variety. “We will all miss him dearly.”
The British-American star was born in London and moved to Los Angeles with his father when he was 11. He would go on to book modeling work, including being the face of Tommy Hilfiger for six years, as well as walking runways for Versace, Gucci, Dolce &Gabbana and Donna Karen.
Sarpong’s first onscreen role came in an episode of Claire Danes’ “My So-Called Life” in 1994. His big TV break, however, came in 2006, when MTV cast him as one of its co-hosts for “Yo Momma.” Sarpong and Valderrama traveled across the country for three seasons to find the best trash talkers. After the show ended in 2007, Sarpong hosted BET pre-awards show “All Access.”
His other TV credits include “Pacific Blue,” “Family Matters,” “ER,” “Boston Public,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Veronica Mars,” “Bones” and “24.” He also had a role in FX’s heavily buzzed “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which is set to debut next year.
He appeared in films “Carmen: The Hip Hopera,” “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and “Anchor Baby.”
Sarpong is survived by his father, Samuel Sarpong Sr., and his sister, June.