What You May Not Know About Mayhem the Allstate Commercial Guy

It’s rare that selling insurance ranks among the funniest or most entertaining topics, but Allstate’s series of “Mayhem” commercials has proven a consistent exception to the rule over its years on the air. If you’ve watched these spots and felt like the guy playing Mayhem seems familiar, you’re right. Aside from his steady gig as TV’s most abused incentive to buy insurance, Dean Winters has been on a number of television shows and in variety of films over the past two decades. What you may not know about him is that he tried to avoid making the Allstate commercials. One morning in June 2009, Winters awoke with a fever and stayed in bed all day. The next morning he not only felt terrible, he had turned the color gray. He immediately went to his doctor, collapsing as he arrived. “I was turning black and my whole head was swelling up,” explained Winters. An ambulance raced him to Lenox Hill Hospital, but on the way his heart stopped. Paramedics revived him, and he wound up spending three weeks in intensive care to recover from a horrific bacterial infection. Over the next year, he spent a total of 95 days in the hospital and endured 10 operations, including the amputation of two toes and half a thumb because of gangrene. Winters was too sick to work for a year, having to go as far as learning to walk all over again. Then Allstate launched its “Mr. Mayhem” campaign and they wanted Winters. He wasn’t going to take the job, but in the midst of feeling sorry for himself, a nurse took him to the children’s burn unit. "I saw these eight kids with prosthetic legs playing soccer and I thought, 'That's it.' That's the moment when I turned everything around and decided to learn how to walk again.” Shooting a string of 30-second TV commercials is Dean Winters' most widely known gig, but it leaves him enough time to do lots of acting in movies and on TV shows, where he often plays street-smart tough guys and cops. Today, Winters is happy to do the Allstate commercials, grateful that he bounced back from his own medical mayhem.