One of the most popular shows on TV, The Walking Dead is back going stronger than ever. It has become one of those shows that has created more popular characters than any other and seems to kill them off as fast as they get there. Actor Vincent M. Ward has been in the business for years appearing in everything from Everybody Hates Chris to True Blood and captured the love of fans as Oscar on the Walking Dead. Now he has stepped up his game outside of the acting business to include the convention scene and I had the time to sit down to discuss his career, The Walking Dead and his upcoming show the Heart of Texas Comic Con.
Bobby: How did you get started in the business? Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Vincent: You know what man, I always say that I didn’t pick acting, acting picked me. The reason that I say that is because the journey that I took as far as getting from Dayton, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio working at a factory and got fired. Ended up working at a shoe store, became the number one salesman in Dayton and they transferred me to Columbus, Ohio to become and assistant manager. Became the number one salesman there and then one day the big boss came and told me that he had been hearing great things about me and asked how far I wanted to take this in the company. I told him that I wanted a position like yours one day and then a couple of weeks later I was fired. My manager told me that whatever I said to the general manager is why he had to let me go. I was devastated by the situation because I had relocated and one day I just happen to go see my very first play and I sat there in that little theater and said I can do that. They had auditions a few weeks later and I went and tried, never acted before and ended up getting a part. What was crazy is that after that the store called me back trying to give me my job back and I told them no.
Bobby: Over your career you have done a ton of stuff, but before you really got going, did you have a direction on where you wanted your career to go in relation to like comedy or action or drama?
Vincent: I was actually wide open and still am, but know my strength is drama. I feel better when I am doing drama stuff even though people always tell me I am funny. You know I am silly and like to have fun, but I know my strength in acting is defenitly drama. I just love to work and want to work, so if it causes me to do comedy then I do comedy, but know where my strength is.
Bobby: Like every other actor in the business you have done a ton of one off parts, but before getting onto the Walking Dead, you had a long stint on Everybody Hates Chris as a variety of characters, but weren’t you also a stand in?
Vincent: Yeah, I was actually hired to be a stand in for Terry Crews and on every show everyone has a stand in. We always had the same stand in’s, but different directors each week. I am a leader type of guy, so I told the other stand in’s, look we need to take this each time as an audition. We had to run the lines and act like we were the characters on the show and it got to the point that we were better actors than some of the actors they were hiring for guest star spots and a lot of times they figured why hire these other people when we can just let our stand in’s do it. A lot of those directors that saw us, when they left to do other shows remembered us and would come back to get us and put us in another show they were working on.
Bobby: Jumping way ahead and you get the part on the Walking Dead and it is already been on for a few seasons. How hard was it to step into an already established show like that with the existing cast?
Vincent: I think my situation was a bit different than everyone else’s because I knew nothing about the show. I just knew they wanted me to play a character named Oscar and this is how they wanted me to play it, so that’s what I did. Probably about my fourth episode I went back to watch season one and two, but those seasons were way different than the third season. The third season is way more exciting than season one and two. To see how the characters grow and how tough they were, I didn’t even know they were the same ones from season one and two.
Bobby: In a shop like this that they try to keep it top secret, when you get cast do you know where they are taking your character and how long you may or may not last?
Vincent: It depends on the fans really. It’s like IronE Singleton who played T-Dogg, he was told two episodes and ended up doing 3 ½ years. A lot of times, not just on the Walking Dead, they will say may say 2-3 episodes, but you might end up with more than that. It just depends, but with my character they did say about 6-7 episodes but holding 2 so there was that possibility of more.
Bobby: Did you get to have a lot of input on how you played your character or did they already have it mapped out on how they wanted you to portray it?
Vincent: I’m the type of actor that I just do it a certain way until they tell me they want it another way. So I went in day one as Oscar and what was funny is Oscar is not too far from the way I am as a real person, so it wasn’t really all that much of a stretch because I really just felt like I was playing myself.
Bobby: With a show like this filled with action and horror like themes there is a lot of stunt driven stuff. Were you able and allowed to pretty much do all your own stunts? I know studios are usually leery about that because they can’t let their lead actors get hurt.
Vincent: I was caught off guard one time by Andy, Rick. It was the scene where he had the gun to my face and I told him I would never pleaded for my life. Originally he had the gun pointed at Lew Temple and he got so hyped up one time that he turned to put the gun on me so fast and he then kicked me in the stomach. It caught me off guard, I was thinking did this mother…. just kick me? Then after the cut he said “I am so sorry, I was so hyped up…” The only people that really get hurt are the people playing the zombies. You try to get as close to their head or body without actually hitting them and I remember I clocked a few people. I laid a few people out, but as far as us hurting each other I think it was us more hurting the walkers than anything.
Bobby: At this point in your career you have done so much, especially in the genre world with The Walking Dead you have no stepped into the world of conventions. Have you been doing them for a while now or just getting started in them?
Vincent: I started conventions last year. My first one was in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and let me tell you I did not know what I was a part of. I did not know there was another side of this world when it came to these conventions. It’s crazy, I love these conventions because you can say hi to the fans, see people you haven’t seen awhile from TV, or professional wrestlers. I have met some really cool people, man. I am really greatful for the conventions. I really truly am. I have a lot of fun, I like to shake hands, hug and talk. It just makes you feel appreciated and know that your work has really spoken to them, especially when fans tell you how much they miss you or how much the character meant to them. Even how much they want you back, there are people that started a petition to bring Oscar back. The hip me to things I never knew. I didn’t realize I wasn’t shot in the head, they told me that I got shot, but they didn’t show it, I didn’t know that, I had to go back and look.
Bobby: With all the costuming at shows, have you had someone show up dressed as you yet?
Vincent: A lady showed up and just started crying one time and I thought it was really strange. She was like “Oh my god it’s you, it’s you.” I was looking around knowing she wasn’t talking about me and she was. The one thing I always here is that they never realized I was that big or really this handsome. (laughs) I always have to remind them on the show I was dirty wearing a prison jump suit.
Bobby: You know some fans just assume that’s how you look every day.
Vincent: Right, but its cool man. I speak to a lot of them on Twitter and Facebook and of course the first thing I get is if this is the real Oscar? They just can’t believe that I am talking back, but I tell them if it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be here.
Bobby: You’ve got the Heart of Texas Comic Con coming up in Waco on March 8-9. I know you will be there signing autographs and meeting the fans, but do you have any other fun planned while there?
Vincent: Man, Jerry Cates has me doing all kinds of stuff. I’m doing a photo-op with two tanks and got to wear a jumpsuit and was like man what the hell? But you know man, to me it’s like whatever I don’t think I am too good to do cool things for the fans like that.
Bobby: Is this the first time you are doing some kind of cool photo-op like that?
Vincent: A lot of times with my inmate buddies from the show we do a photo-op like that. Last year most of the ones I went too were me and Lew together but this is going to be a fun strange photo-up putting that jump suit on and on top of the tank.
Bobby: With the conventions you know people always show up to get photos signed from you for The Walking Dead or other projects, but had you received anything yet that you were shocked that they even knew you were in?
Vincent: Somebody brought a DVD one time and the part that I had in the movie was so small, but they brought the DVD and asked how much I charged. I told them I wasn’t charging them anything and signed it for them, I just felt good that they knew it was me and now it’s getting to the point where people will see the old stuff and be like “Oh my god, I didn’t know that was you”. Especially with True Blood, when I played Hollis on there, I will put the clip on Twitter or Facebook and they are like “Oh yeah that was you.” I have this thing called http://activepitch.com/vincentmward/ and you can see all of my old clips of stuff I have been in.
Bobby: Awesome, do you have anything else outside of the con you would like to tell the fans about?
Vincent: I’ve shot a couple of short films, a pilot, and a couple of plays coming up with some R&B singers coming up. I am still waiting to hear back from this Jay-Z / Beyonce video. I got hired but haven’t given me a date yet. That’s pretty much it, but who knows since they didn’t show me die maybe I can get back on The Walking Dead, who knows. Any thing’s possible, Merle came back.
Bobby: I am a big fan of the show and thought you were awesome on it and really appreciate you taking the time to do this and look forward to seeing you at the Heart of Texas Comic Con.
Vincent: My pleasure man, see you in a couple of weeks.
For more information on the Heart of Texas Comic Con head over to http://thehotcon.com/
For more information on Vincent M. Ward head over to http://www.vincentmward.com/