Hailing from scenic Morristown, New Jersey, Ward Horton didn’t get the typical start you would expect for a leading man in the entertainment industry. Although he dabbled in acting in his youth, he attended Wake Forest University where he earned a BA in Business. After a few years as an investment banker in North Carolina, Ward made the move to follow his passion for acting and headed to new York City to pursue his dream of becoming working actor. His hard work and dedication paid off in spades as he continues to turn the heads of industry insiders with his standout performances. His latest role in ‘Annabelle’ finds him at the top of his game.’Annabelle,’ is the highly anticipated spinoff of ‘The Conjuring,’ which broke box office records and is one of the highest grossing horror films of all time. Directed by John Leonetti, Ward Horton is part of a very talented which includes Annabelle Wallis, Tony Amendola and Alfre Woodard.
Horror fans where first introduced to Annabelle in ‘The Conjuring, but New Line Cinema’s spine-tingling supernatural thriller (hitting theaters on October 3rd) exposes her dark past. In the film, John Form (Ward Horton) has finds the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia—a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia’s delight with Annabelle doesn’t last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now…Annabelle.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Ward Horton to discuss his career, his evolution as an actor, the challenges of bringing ‘Annabelle’ to the screen, working alongside one of the creepiest dolls ever put on film and what fans can expect from this chilling new tale of horror!
You didn’t have the typical start when it comes to being an actor. What can you tell us about that and what led you to a career in the entertainment industry?
Ya know, I guess I was a late bloomer in figuring out what I wanted to do with my life! I guess I am still trying to figure it out! [laughs] I grew up acting and did a lot of theater when I was younger. I did a little bit in college. I went to Wake Forest University, which was an amazing experience for me. My freshman year, I did a play but then I kind of got away from it. I think I can be very practical and I didn’t think this profession was a practical profession. I got away from it and gave it up. For five years I didn’t do it. I declared finance my major and went into asset management after school after doing many different things. I worked down in North Carolina for three years doing that until I got married. My wife called me out on not doing what I wanted to do with my life. She felt like I was settling for something because it was practical and wasn’t something I was truly passionate about. Luckily, I have the wife that I have that gave me the kick in the butt to pursue something I had always wanted to pursue professionally, so I did that and the rest is history!
That is terrific! Who would you cite as your biggest influence as far as other actors or people who pushed you as an artist?
Going all the way back to high school, the director for all the plays I did in high school was someone who early on influenced me. As my career has gone on, I have had so many mentors and coaches along the way who have had such an influence on me. They have really helped steer my career in the direction that I wanted it to go. Guys like Bob Krakower has been a great friend and coach of mine and Andrew Stewart-Jones who is a wonderful coach. As far as actors go, I love the legends. I love watching all of the Paul Newman stuff. I love his subtlety and stillness. When I think of actors who have really influenced me personally, I would say he is right at the top of the list.
Your latest project, “Annabelle,” is creating quite a buzz. Were you familiar with the franchise beforehand and what drew you to the role?
I don’t know the genre a lot because I have kids now, so I can’t really allow myself to dabble in that world too much. In general, I don’t let my mind go there when it comes to thinking about evil. I know evil is all around us but I don’t allow myself to play in those waters too much! I watched “The Conjuring” and I thought what they did with that film felt new, real and grounded in the genre of horror in a way I hadn’t seen before. I had the opportunity to audition for this and meet the creative team behind it and it was a no-brainer! They are able to do things that may have been done before but they are doing them in different ways. The premiere was last night, here in LA, and watching with a live audience and seeing peoples reactions to it made all of us feel like we had accomplished what we had set out to do.
What type of preparation went into bringing this character from script to screen?
In this film I play the character of John Form, who is a doctor in training. He is an expectant father and all around pretty good guy. He is there for his wife and he is a supportive husband. In a way, I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for this role because as an actor you always want to jump into a situation where you can try something you have never done before or test yourself. In this case, as a husband and father myself, I wanted to know how I would react in a situation where the safety of my family is at risk and to what lengths I would go to protect them. In a way, I feel like my life has prepared me for this and now I got to jump off the ledge and see how I would react. As far as the content of the film, I did do some research on Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are the paranormal specialists back east who wrote the book, “The Demonologist.” One of the chapters is the “Annabelle” chapter, which our film is based upon. That was a huge source of information for all of us on set. There were times when I would be reading chapters before I went to bed at night, which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do because it is definitely some freaky stuff! [laughs] It allowed you to jump into that world. While I might have not allowed my mind to go there in the past, when we started working on this project, I kind of had to. It was interesting! Hearing all of the stories from people and learning about the experiences people have gone through that are other-worldly was definitely eye-opening for me.
They say you take a little bit away from your time on every project. What did you take away from your time with this talented cast and crew?
Anytime you do a film, actually, I won’t say anytime because it isn’t always the case. However, on this project, I will take away some amazing relationships and work experiences with people like John Leonetti, Annabelle Wallace and the legendary Alfre Woodard. It is not every day that you get to jump into a game like that with people working at the top of their craft and profession. For me, I was a sponge on set and soaking it all up. Being able to play in that world for a while was very, very special and I was fortunate to have been there.
Let’s talk about Annabelle herself for a second. Whether it is in a trailer or on a poster, this doll is terrifying. How creepy is this thing in real life on set?! [laughs]
Yeah, she is pretty terrifying! When you show up on set at 5 o’clock in the morning and she is sitting in the makeup chair next to you and that is all you have to look at for a while, it can change the outlook of your day pretty quickly! [laughs] Of course, the real doll is back east in Connecticut in the home of Lorraine Warren behind glass, protected and blessed by an ordained minister twice a month. She might not look quite as scary as the doll we used in the film but she is the one who holds most of the evil! The Annabelle doll we had on set, while she looks really scary, she is really just an actress! She plays the role of a diva really well on set. We always had to wait for her on set and she was always the last one to get there! [laughs]
You surely learned a lot in your journey as an actor. What has been your biggest evolution an actor?
I don’t know if I have one moment because it is such a work in progress. I think you are always learning and trying new things! I think if anyone were to ask me for advice, I don’t know why they would, but I would say only you know what is right inside of you. I think a lot of times as actors we go out and try to give people what we think they want. It is really important to sit back and say “You know what? I have put in the time and put in the effort. I have worked hard at my craft and I am going to do what I feel is right.” If people don’t like it, then people don’t like it and you move along to the next project, audition, meeting or whatever else you are attempting to do. Be true to yourself and everything will work out.
Obviously, you are focused on acting at this point in your career but are you interested in exploring the world behind the camera as well?
Yeah, I think all of us as actors would love to get behind the camera at some point. Right now, yeah, I would rather be in front of it. Working with some of the people I have been able to on these sets, both directors and cinematographers, has been great because I am always soaking that experience up. Right now, I am just learning from them and I wouldn’t know how to do it any better but at some point I would love to venture into that world and do it my way to see how that makes me feel and if it is something I want to pursue further. Definitely!
Are you involved with any charity work we can help spread the light on?
That’s really nice of you to ask. I have a niece that was just recently diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, so that is something my wife and I are getting more involved with. Anyone who wants to go out and support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, that would be something we would all appreciate. We try to dabble in stuff back in our hometown in Connecticut as well. From soup kitchens to food banks, we try to get as involved as we can but with two young kids at home it can be a challenge to spend as much time as you would like doing that right now. As they get older, hopefully, we will be doing that as a family more and more.
You are certainly staying busy. With all the irons you have in the fire, I am sure we will be speaking again before we know it!
Thank you! I appreciate your time, Jason!
Before I let you go, what are the best places for fans to catch up with you online and tell you about their experiences with this spooky new film?
I am on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thewardhorton, on Instagram at instagram.com/wardhorton and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wardhorton. That would be awesome! I would love to hear from everybody and see what they think of this film and see if they were scared! I am looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to it. I think I am going to sneak into a theater to get to enjoy that because there is nothing better than watching an audience freak out when that is what you spent so much time and effort to make happen! I am really looking forward to that!