By building up his muscles, shaving his head, and picking an impossibly cool fake name, Vin Diesel has done his level best to turn himself into a life-size, human action figure. A mere 22 years ago, though, the California-born Furious 7 star (dull but acceptable real name: Mark Sinclair) was a twentysomething aspiring actor just trying to make a dollar in show business. He had already appeared as a hospital orderly in Penny Marshall’s Awakenings by that point in his career, but his breakthrough in Saving Private Ryan was still four years away. In those lean years, he had to take whatever gigs he could find. In 1994, that meant demonstrating the utter awesomeness of Street Sharks action figures at Toy Fair, an annual trade show held each February in New York City.
While Street Sharks, a syndicated cartoon show about hideous, ’roided-up sharks with nightmarish arms and legs, managed to last three seasons and 40 episodes during the mid-’90s, the series is probably most fondly remembered today for inspiring a kick-ass toy line. Vin Diesel, as the video of the event clearly proves, was the perfect spokesman for the merchandise. Maybe it was just innate acting ability, but the shirtless, leather-vest-clad Diesel seems to be very into these toys and their various action features. One gets the sense that he’d be playing with Street Sharks toys even if no one was watching him. At one point, he produces a particularly ugly figure from the gaping maw of a fake shark and gives the following sales pitch: “Sledge The Hammerhead loves to floor the competition with a flying headbutt.” A button is pushed on the figure, and a plastic projectile flies forth from its oversized head, knocking over an unfortunate humanoid foe. Anyone looking for the exact moment Vin Diesel truly came into his own as a thespian need search no further.