Actor Joshua Ryan Evans Dead

On "The Early Show," Christina Cooper holds "Skippy," the kangaroo she rescued. CBS

He was only 20, and because of a rare medical condition, stood just 3 feet 2 inches, but actor Joshua Ryan Evans made a big impression on those who knew him - and millions of fans who knew only his work.

Evans, who played a precocious lawyer on "Ally McBeal" and Timmy the Living Doll on the soap opera "Passions," died Monday during a medical procedure at a hospital in San Diego, according to a spokeswoman for NBC.

The network's announcement Tuesday did not give details on the medical procedure or the cause of death. Evans had a heart condition and was being evaluated for surgery, and also suffered from the inherited disorder achondroplasia, which restricts cartilage growth and physical development.

Since 1999, Evans played Timmy, a doll brought to life by a witch named Tabitha, played by British actress Juliet Mills, to join in her evil schemes on the NBC daytime soap "Passions."

In an eerie coincidence, Evans' character died on this Monday's episode of Passions - a segment that was taped last month.

Evans said he became fascinated by movies as a child after enduring a series of surgeries that left him homebound for long stretches.

"Watching movies took me away from my own problems and gave me a total escape," he said. "I knew that if I could do that for just one person - that if I could help one person escape the way the movies helped me - that would be a great way to spend my life."

The Hayward, California native adopted as his personal motto: "It's not the size of the dreamer, it's the size of the dream."

At age 12, Evans landed a contract with a Hollywood agent after passing out business cards reading "Joshua Ryan Evans: Kid" to countless acquaintances in the entertainment industry.

Evans began his career as a commercial actor, getting his first national exposure as "The Dancing Baby" in a Dreyer's Ice Cream commercial which won Cleo Award and landed him a part in the movie "Baby Geniuses."

Turning his size to his advantage to land both child and adult roles, Evans gradually began appearing in guest-starring roles on various TV series.

He leapt to fame in a guest-starring role as Oren Koolie, a child prodigy lawyer who butted heads with the title character in "Ally McBeal" played by Calista Flockhart.

That performance led to roles as Tom Thumb in the A&E miniseries "P.T. Barnum" and as the young Grinch in the 2000 remake of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Evans is survived by his parents and an older brother.

  • Francie Grace

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