Vincent M. Ward ~ Oscar ~ The Walking Dead
Life has a way of bringing you to a defining moment. That moment is when you finally stumble upon that thing that you now recognize as what you have been searching for all of your life. It’s your destiny. It’s the fire inside that moves you. It’s the passion that causes you to work towards an expected end. You realize everything you made it through was divinely appointed for your life when you find yourself cast on a show that is now deemed the most-watched drama series telecast on basic cable. Millions are tuning in and falling in love with you. Time will prove that although the show continues to thrive, there is still a desire and demand for the return of that prisoner named, Oscar, on The Walking Dead, portrayed by talented actor, Mr. Rise and Grind, Vincent M. Ward.
Black Wall Street: Hello, Mr. Ward.
Vincent M. Ward: Hello, what’s going on?
BWS: Nothing more important than this interview. I am extremely excited and honored to get to talk with you.
VMW: Thank you. I’m happy to do it.
BWS: I’ve read that you feel like your acting career has just begun with being cast on The Walking Dead. Why is that?
VMW: You know, I always say that. I mean no disrespect. I am very grateful for everything that I have done in the past but this show has definitely opened up new doors.
BWS: You have quite a few credits under your belt. You have appeared in Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Bringing Down the House, just to name a few. You have guest-starred on shows such as The Game, Girlfriends, and CSI: Miami. You are on a constant grind. What’s different about this assignment?
VMW: I always say and feel that maybe God didn’t feel that I could handle the success earlier. I’d rather wait and be patient and get it now when I know I’m mentally, spiritually, and emotionally stronger. You’re not going to read about Vincent Ward overdosing or getting caught with a hooker or anything like that. I’ve gone through some agents. I’ve gone through some managers. One thing I always prayed for was to have a manager like Jerry Maguire. One day a friend of mine said, “I want you to meet this guy. His name is Alex. He is with Open Entertainment.” I met Alex. I walked in and there was this little white guy, a young white dude, and we’re talking and we’re talking, and I said, “You know what? You’re my Jerry Maguire.” He said, “What do you mean by that?” I told my story and we’ve been working. We bump heads sometimes but I know he means well.
BWS: What is Vincent’s story? How did you get to be Oscar? The fans are pining for you. How did you find your love for acting?
VMW: Um, what drew me to acting was… (Chuckling) getting fired from jobs…to be honest. I would say that I didn’t pick acting, acting picked me. The reason I say that is I was working at GM (General Motors) in Dayton, Ohio, just like everybody and their momma was. I got hurt on the job one day and they told me I couldn’t come back. From there, I started working at Champ Sports in Dayton. I became the top salesman in the district. They told me I was doing a great job and they were going to train me as an assistant manager but I had to go to Columbus, Ohio. I went to work in Columbus and became the top salesman in the district there. One day the general manager came out and said, “Man, we are hearing great things about you.” The conversation was cool and laid back. We were laughing and everything. I told him that I would like to have a position like his one day. A couple of weeks later I was fired. My manager told me whatever you said to the general manager is why I have to let you go. A couple of weeks after that, I saw my very first play, Black Man Rising. I had never seen a play in my life. I fell in love with it. A few weeks later they were having auditions for that very same play company. I went and auditioned and got a part. I had never even thought about becoming an actor.
VMW: It was called the Living the Dream Theatre with James Chapmyn. May he rest in peace.
BWS: Were you an instant hit on the stage? How did Hollywood come into play?
VMW: I have always had entertainment blood in me. That went for playing basketball, being a dancer in a rap group, or just hip hop dancing period. I had never done acting so I started off as the weak link. Being a competitor, I knew I wasn’t going to end up as a weak link. I always try to be the best without stepping on anybody’s toes. I started practicing and practicing and from there I moved on and started doing other plays around Columbus which led to my first audition for a movie called Symbol of Love by John Whaley. I ended up getting a lead part in that. The movie Traffic with Michael Douglas was being shot in Cincinnati and Columbus. I ended up auditioning and got a part. I decided then I was moving to LA. I moved back to Dayton and started working security at the airport to save up some money. I’m saying all of this in this order to show the path that God had laid out for me. By the time I was ready to move to LA, guess what I ended up getting?
BWS: What was that?
VMW: A check from GM saying not to come back basically. That check helped me on my move.
BWS: Did you send them a thank you note?
VMW: Right. For them to send me that check to tell me not to come back actually did me a favor. GM also taught me some things. If you’re not on time, you will get fired. That’s just like with the whole acting thing out here. If you’re not on time, you are wasting people’s money. Time is money out here. They are just not waiting on you. There are 100 other people working behind the scenes on things. So they taught me how to be on time. I thank GM for that and I thank them for firing me.
BWS: So the story moves to LA. What happens?
VMW: I went to my first premiere which was the movie Traffic. This was my first big “something”. I had my sister and especially my parents telling people, “yeah Vince is in a scene with Michael Douglas. My baby is doing it!” So I’m sitting at the premiere, and the scene was Michael Douglas driving around the neighborhood looking for his daughter. I had to stop him and confront him like a “hey what you doing in my hood” type of thing right? So I’m sitting there at the premiere thinking ok, here we go, here we go, and here goes my scene…he drives right past me.
BWS: I bet.
VMW: I didn’t know any better. This was my first big thing. I was hurt. They kept me in the credits for some strange reason as “guy on the street”. The only thing I could think about was that people were going to think I was lying or my parents were lying. That was truly the only thing I was concerned about. So not knowing any better again, after the premiere, I go to Steven Soderbergh, one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, and I said, “Hey man. Why you cut my part out?”
BWS: Hey, you wanted to know.
VMW: He looks at me and says, “Well Vince, things happen. We went over budget. We had to pay Michael up front.” I’m guessing he could see the hurt in my eyes. He said, “Hey, I’m working on a new film.” He wrote down a number and gave it to me. He said, “Give my secretary a call. I’m working on a new film called Oceans 11.” That’s how I got on Ocean’s 11.
BWS: Hopefully he treats you better this time around?
VMW: I had a five-day contract. Every day I got to play basketball with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and George Clooney.
BWS: That sounds absolutely awesome.
VMW: Yeah I had a good time. My last day there I told George, “Hey you know today is my last day.” George said “Hey man, don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it.” I got an extra five days with pay just to play basketball with them. I promise you, if I knew then, what I know today, I would still be friends with those guys. Not to use the relationship to further myself but just to play basketball. A lot of times it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You know, those guys look out for each other. You know what I mean?
BWS: I understand completely.
VMW: So now I’m at this premiere and we are at the scene where George Clooney and Matt Damon are sliding down the escalator. They open the two doors, slide the gas pellet in and knock the two guards out. I’m one of the guards. They tie us up. Me and the other guard are having a conversation and guess what’s happening now?
BWS: What’s that?
VMW: They are playing music on top of our voices.
BWS: Oh my gosh, not again!
VMW: I didn’t say anything to Mr. Soderbergh after that but I did tell myself I will never allow that to happen again. Bringing Down the House calls with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin. I was only supposed to have two words. When I tell you I added lines like a big dog. I added lines as if I was one of the writers. They kept every line that I added. That was my start here in Hollywood. It started off rocky but you learn and you move on.
BWS: Hey and you are still there…
VMW: Yes. From there I started working on the show Girlfriends. I’ve put in work. I’ve been patient.
BWS: So here we are with you being cast as part of one of the most popular TV series’ being watched. I did not watch The Walking Dead for the very reason of I’m afraid of zombies.
VMW: You’re afraid of something that isn’t real?
BWS: I am afraid of something that isn’t real.
VMW: Let me tell you. If there was any such thing as a zombie, they would look like the ones on our show.
BWS: I would never come outside…
VMW: Wait a minute if you can’t outrun one of those slow things, then you deserve to get eaten!
BWS: But they were still successful in their attacks, although, they didn’t get you.
VMW: Exactly, I like what you said. That’s where this whole petition is coming from. People feel like he didn’t get bit by a zombie, nor did they show him get shot in the head…
BWS: Right, so?
VMW: Go ahead. Ask me.
BWS: Are we going to see you again?
VMW: You know what? I hope so but there is this billboard that the show had up that says, “Don’t look back.” If I don’t go back, I won’t be looking back. I don’t look back anyway for the simple fact I’m so focused on my future. Whatever happens, happens. If it doesn’t happen, so be it. If it does happen, just know I’m going to kill it.
BWS: I know you will but in my opinion, your part was too short. You were just becoming part of the gang, transitioning into family, and then you were gone. It seemed random the way you were killed off. Then I began to think back to other things that sort of “rubbed me the wrong way” in this show. I felt as if the black man is made to be inferior or weak in this show. T-Dog, a black man, for example, was beat down by Merle, a white man, almost immediately after sustaining a highly racially decorated tongue lashing from Merle. Then who came to T-Dog’s rescue? Rick. A white man. I feel as if it was a set up to finally make the black man a weak man.
VMW: You know I hear these stories all the time. Did you see my interview with TMZ?
BWS: Yes I did. They were talking about how they kill off one black man to bring on another.
VMW: Yeah. I understand what people are saying about it. It shouldn’t be like that but it seems like out of us all, the fans connected with my character more than anyone else because mine was strong. I was strong, I had drama. I had comedy with my right hand man, Axel. Right now, from what I’m hearing is people can’t communicate with the two new guys.
BWS: I admired Oscar for the simple fact that he was strong and it didn’t matter what was going on, nothing altered who he was going to be. There was a line Oscar had when Rick was about to kill all of you…
VMW: I ain’t never pleaded for my life and I ain’t about to start now. You do what you gotta do… yep.
BWS: Yes! I loved it. I thought that was so brave. Is that similar to your real character and personality?
VMW: Yes I’m exactly like that. That situation happened to me twice. I didn’t say those exact words but it was something similar to that. People ask was it hard playing Oscar. It wasn’t hard playing me. I don’t mind telling people to do what they are going to do. If they’re going to hurt you, they’re going to hurt you. If they’re going to do something for you, they’re going to do something for you, but I’m not going to chase you to do something for me. I’m not going to beg you not to kill me. I still live by your word is your bond.
BWS: I’m proud of the fact that you are from Ohio. I love to hear success stories coming from my home. After working within the music community and doing some writing for a local entertainment company, I can’t help but to notice how hard it is to be celebrated in your own home. Have you also found that to be true with all your success?
VMW: Your hometown gives you more problems than strangers. They will pay $50, $75, even $100 for people they don’t know but won’t pay $25 or $30 for someone they do know and grew up with. They want to feel proud when they want to impress someone. Someone that still has my number will call me and say, “Hey man, can you tell my girl you know me? We are sitting here watching you on TV right now.” Then she will hit up me on Facebook. I’m like you idiot you just opened up the door for me if I wanted to go there.
BWS: Right. While we are on the subject of females, you mentioned before that you’ve always had entertainment in your blood. I couldn’t help but notice that at least at one point in your career you had a niche for entertaining the ladies. I believe the project was called Eargasms? I’m just curious if recording is an interest of yours or just something you wanted to do?
VMW: I just threw the CD together because I kept getting compliments on my voice. Whenever I was dating someone, I would like to put something on her mind to let her know daddy was thinking about her. I didn’t mind telling her flat out what I was going to do to her and how I was feeling.
BWS: I am a fanatic of love and relationships. I would love to get your take on relationships and how important it is or would be to have a significant other that supports your dreams and your work.
VMW: I need my woman to be confident, driven, loyal, fun, God-fearing, honest, clean, and supportive because the things I expect are the same things I give back. Once I’m your man, I’m just that, yours!
BWS: With that said, what can a prospective lady finding you doing these days?
VMW: I said I was going to focus on TV and movies for right now but my love and passion is the stage. I’m doing a few plays coming up. There is The New 40 and Mirror, Mirror coming to a venue near you.
BWS: After all is said and done, what has your journey taught you? What is it that you have gained from your experiences?
VMW: I’m more humble now. I’m more grateful now than I have ever been because I know that it can be taken away in a heartbeat. Life can be taken away. I did some work with the Wounded Warriors. I listened to the stories of these people losing limbs, having their arms and legs taken off and they didn’t even know. They were at war but you don’t even have to be at war. I have a friend whose dog bit her thumb off. She said that changed her life. You never realize how much you need your thumbs to button your pants, to button your shirt. You can’t take anything for granted.
BWS: You have a saying…
VMW: Rise and Grind. Every day you have to get up and do something to better your life or better somebody else’s life. To me, it’s all about trying to help each other out. Even if you don’t know a person, if you can help somebody’s magazine become more popular, some photographer become more accomplished, some business become more accomplished because of who you are or what you have going on at that present time, why not do it?
Amber Wallace (@imambrosial) is a writer in Columbus, OH.
For more information on Vincent M. Ward, visit vincentmward.com.