William Ray Norwood Jr. was born in McComb, Mississippi to Willie Norwood and Sonja Bates-Norwood. His older sister Brandy is an award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist. Early in his life, he moved with his family from McComb, Mississippi to Los Angeles, California, and in 1989 started appearing in television commercials for different companies. In 1989, at the age of eight, Norwood began auditioning for and appearing in television commercials; he played the foster son in The Sinbad Show, from 1993 to 1994. This period in Norwood's life would shape his acting career. According to Bradley Torreano of AllMusic, "his easygoing image and boyish looks appealed to the producers of Brandy's television show, Moesha, giving him a role on the UPN series as Dorian "D-Money", a role he played from 1999 until the show ended in 2001.