The actor says his stepdad was "a helluva man"
Even though Anthony Anderson was raised by his stepffather, Sterling Bowman, he only addressed him as dad.
“He was the only father I knew or cared about,” the actor tells PEOPLE. “He raised me as any father would, with love, patience, understanding and discipline. I’m grateful because he taught me what it took to be a man. He wasn’t perfect, which made him even more of my hero.”
The two first bonded when his stepfather met Anderson’s mother while she was out for a walk pushing her son in a stroller. “It takes a helluva man to raise another man’s child as his own and that’s what my father did with no fuss or fanfare because that’s what real men do,” the actor says.
His father also had a unique way of teaching his son about responsibility – when Anderson returned home from college, he decided against working for his dad in the family business (Bowman owned three clothing stores) “because I knew that he would pay very little money if he paid me at all,” he says. The actor took a job at the mall in a high-end retail store selling women’s shoes instead.
“My father was somewhat offended,” Anderson says. “He decided that he was going to show me what tough love was all about.”
Bowman first wanted him to pay rent in his childhood home. When the actor questioned the decision, “He said because I was now a man,” the actor recalls. “And men don’t live at home – especially for free.”
But his dad didn’t stop there: “My father removed all the phone jacks in the house and installed a payphone in the family room,” Anderson continues. “He also padlocked the entertainment system and the freezer in the kitchen only giving me access to the refrigerator.”
Better yet, “Since all of the appliances in the kitchen were electric, he removed the fuse from the fuse box for the kitchen appliances and put a padlock on the fuse box until he returned home from work everyday,” Anderson adds.
The tough love shaped the actor as an adult and provided good material for his stand-up comedy as well. “It’s so unbelievable that it can only be true!” he says. “And it killed every time on stage.”
While Anderson’s dad has since passed away, he lived long enough to experience his son’s success with him. “And also sit in the audience and cosign the stories I would tell as truth!” he says.
“Again, my father taught me what it took to be a man,” he tells PEOPLE. “Those things were courage, responsibility, love, compassion, patience and understanding. Thank you, dad. I love you and I miss you!”