Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Supernatural Rick Worthy Talks Diversity in Hollywood

It was a gorgeous day, like so many in Los Angeles. However, this past September 23rd was extra special for me. Because I had the honor to have an afternoon coffee at a local West Hollywood Starbucks with the incomparable and immensely talented Rick Worthy. You've seen him on shows like: Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Voyager, Castle, Fallen, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, & Grey's Anatomy just to name a few. When you see him on screen, you can't help but be drawn in to his every word. Everything he does seems fluid, instinctual, and is delivered by a tidal wave of emotions. I guess it also doesn't hurt that he is tall, has piercing eyes, and a very "James Earl Jones-like" warm resonating dulcet toned voice. Many would find this intimidating. However, when you meet and speak with him, it's like speaking with one of your most trusted confidants. Because his energy is so comforting and familial, your guard is immediately down, and you trust him as if you do your best friend. All this wrapped up in a package of one of the most talented actors that television has seen. It's no mistake that he has been awarded some of the most diverse range of characters, and continues to snag them to this day. And yes, I got to have a one on one chat with him. Check it out...

Rick as Crewman Noah Lessing in a scene from Star Trek:Voyager with Kate Mulgrew

How long have you been acting? 
27 years. I was a dancer before I was an actor. I don't know if you remember a show called Dance Fever. But I was on the show with my brother around 1986 or 1985. We finished and I went into the theatre, and my brother went into music. He became a DJ.

Your start was in theatre? 
Yes, in Detroit, at the University of Michigan where I graduated. I was basically a theatre and film major, and that was the beginning of everything.

Rick in a scene from Battlestar Galactica

I'm curious, was your family supportive of this choice of occupation?
No. Absolutely not. Ha Ha. I'll never forget. My mom was, but my dad was like most parents. He's old-school from the south. So, when I finally had the confidence to tell him, he wanted to protect me of course, as all parents do...which manifested in the form of a 10 minute or so rant. After he left the room, I'll never forget...I'm almost in tears just thinking about it. Anyway, he left and my mother came back into the room and said, "follow your dreams."

Whoa. Who would you say are some of your big influences?
Great question. I've always had sort of a top ten list of actors (male and female) that I love. When I was getting remember that movie Ragtime? Well, when I saw Howard E. Rollins Jr., I said to myself, 'I want to do that!' It was him that made me want to become an actor. To this day, he's been one of my all time favorites!

Rick as the Alpha Vampire in a scene from Supernatural

Nice! Have you ever had a chance to work with him?
No, he passed away before I met him. I knew someone who knew him, and she was going to introduce me to him. But then he died.

Wow. Who else? 
Well, there's a list: Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Will Paxton, Denzel Washington, and I'm a massive Marlon Brando and James Dean fan. These actors have taken what we do and raised the bar, you know? And it's like, I can die poor living in a small apartment somewhere. But if I can die given a chance to have that caliber of work, then I can die happy. For me, the most important thing is the respect of my peers and respect for my work. We all want to live well, but you can't take it with you when you die.

Are you a comic book or sci-fi fan at all? 
When I was a kid, I would hold up a piece of paper to the television and try to trace Batman. My mom was like, "You're not going to get him that way, honey. You're going to have to draw him." My mom would draw me a stick figure of Batman, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! So, I would draw him as well. I would draw and draw and I always said that I'd be an artist for DC or Marvel comics...I never did. I still draw. Not super great, but I can still do a good Superman or Batman. I used to collect X-Men. I had the first 12 original issues of X-Men. I used to collect Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four...for a while it was my life.

Rick as the Alpha Vampire in a scene from Supernatural

Do you have any other skills that are underused, or that people don't know about?
Before I was a dancer in Detroit, I was fascinated with Bruce Lee. So I started Tae Kwan Do. Almost got my black belt. I'd love to be able to do some of that in a show.

What is your favorite Martial Arts film?
Enter The Dragon.

Rick as Mayor Rudy Hopkins in a scene from The Vampire Diaries

As an actor, what is something that you don't get to do very often?
Be number one on the call sheet...nuff said,

Hahaha. I know EXACTLY what you mean! Do you have a problem with typecasting?
When I was just starting out, I was a young black man and I was very afraid of being typecast as a criminal, a basketball player, etc. But thankfully, due to science fiction, I have not fallen into those categories of typecasting. Science-Fiction has broadened our horizons where that is concerned. Star Trek in 1966 brought us the first interracial kiss on screen. Gene Roddenberry was amazing and we owe him much. I'm happy to say that I wasn't typecast as the thug, or even the jock. I have played these roles, but now I play more of the bad type....or even the mayor of a small town. *smile*

How do you see diversity in Hollywood changing? What do you think needs to happen?
Well, number one, we need to write our own stuff and market that content. Secondly, we also need to make a show and sell it to those who are in power. Very much like Shonda Rhimes. We go to the people who are in power so that they will give us a chance. Then lastly, we need to be able to not go to them. That is how we truly know change has been made.

Rick with Paul Westley during an ABC promotion for Fallen

Are you working on anything right now that we can look out for?
I've actually been working on this show with David Duchovny called Aquarius. It's about the hunt for Charles Manson in the 1960s. I have a small, really well written, recurring role as the owner of an all black diner. I have this 50's kind of process. I sent pics to my dad who is 75, and he said, "that looks just like me back in the 60s!" My character is friends with Duchovny's character, who is one of the very few white people who frequent the diner which is in an all black neighborhood. and I'm his buddy. So he has his ear to the black community, and he also has his ear to the white community.

How was it working with David? 
He's great. I've found him to be nothing but a really nice guy.

Rick in Battlestar Galactica

Thank you very much for your time, Rick. It's been nothing short of an honor to speak with you. 

As you can see, Rick's resume doesn't lack in any area. He has production companies, studios, and has worked with some of the biggest names in television. When you watch any reel of him, you can't help but be pulled into his scenes, and his range is beyond wide. Earlier in the interview he made mention of being influenced by Howard E. Rollins and some of the other greats. One can't help but see him as an influence for the next generation of actors (and yours truly), and a trailblazer who is paving the way for further diversity in Hollywood. Something tells me that the best is yet to come for Rick.

Brian J. Patterson is a writer, actor and producer who splits his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. His house is a shrine to Wonder Woman and Xena.

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