Making it in Hollywood is a tall order when you’re only 3’2″. But Josh Ryan Evans, who was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism that kept his body from maturing, never considered his stature an obstacle. “If I was just another blond-haired, brown-eyed actor,” he once said, “I’d be left unrecognized.”
Instead, Evans, 20, who died on Aug. 5 of complications from a congenital heart condition, caught everyone’s attention as Timmy, the living doll on Passions, NBC’s campy occult-themed soap. Oddly enough, hours before he passed away, his alter ego was killed off on that day’s episode. “The timing is so ghastly, but Josh would have loved that fact,” says Juliet Mills, who plays Timmy’s witchy creator Tabitha. “It’s so Hollywood.”
Tinseltown meant everything to the Hayward, Calif.-born Evans, who endured three heart operations before he reached his teens. Watching films like Star Wars “took me away from the hospital and made me think about being an actor,” he told PEOPLE in 2000. Evans hired an agent in 1994 and landed plum roles such as a child-prodigy lawyer on Ally McBeal before beginning his three-year, Daytime Emmy-nominated turn as Timmy.
His health failing in recent months, Evans (who lived in L.A. with mom Cheryl) died halfway through a six-week Passions hiatus. Yet to the end, “he was doing exactly what he had planned to do,” says Mills. “He never signed an autograph without writing, ‘Dream big.’ ”