When Ward Horton came onto our radar a few years back, he was generating a buzz in Hollywood for his multifaceted skill set. As the years roll on, he continues to hone his craft and deliver dynamic performances with every role he takes on. In 2017, he is continuing his winning ways with two powerful new projects as he continues to turn heads of fans and critics alike.
Currently, Ward Horton can be seen as one of the leads on the CBS drama, “Pure Genius.” Created by Jason Katims, “Pure Genius” centers on billionaire genius James Bell (Augustus Prew) who built Bunker Hill Hospital determined to revolutionize healthcare and treat the rarest and most challenging medical mysteries, at no charge. Bell persuades maverick surgeon Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney) to be his Chief of Staff. Bell’s team includes Dr. Zoe Brockett (Odette Annable), Dr. Talaikha Channarayapatra (Reshma Shetty), Dr. Malik Verlaine (Aaron Jennings), Dr. Scott Strauss (Ward Horton) and Angie Cheng (Brenda Song). At Bunker Hill, Bell pairs the most brilliant minds in medicine with the most forward thinkers in technology, and cuts bureaucracy out of the equation, all in the interest of saving lives, including his own.
However, Ward Horton’s talents aren’t limited to the small screen! Film fans can catch him starring opposite Aimee Teegarden and Krysta Rodriguez in writer/director Gustavo Ron’s romantic comedy, “Bakery In Brooklyn.” The film centers around two cousins, Vivien (Aimme Teegarden) and Chloe (Krysta Rodriguez), who recently inherited their late Aunt Isabelle’s bakery, a boulangerie that has been a cornerstone of the neighborhood for years. Chloe wants a new image and product, while Vivien wants to make sure nothing changes; add to that the complications new relationships always bring – Chloe’s with a tempestuous Chef and Vivien’s with Paul (Ward Horton), who is the banker who happens to have it out for their business and suddenly their clash of ideas leads to a peculiar solution. The once inseparable cousins split the shop in half with a black line in the middle and each runs her business as she sees fit; unleashing a battle for every customer who walks in the door. Vivien and Chloe will have to learn to overcome their differences and work together as a team in order to save the bakery as well as everything else that truly matters in their lives.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Ward Horton to discuss his latest projects, the challenges he faced with each and the lessons learned along the way!
It’s great to catch up with you again, especially at the beginning of the year. You have plenty of irons in the fire. Did you have resolutions for the year or anything you wanted to focus on creatively?
Wow! Yeah, I would like to keep working! [laughs] That is definitely the first thing I would like to do! Having a nice, steady paycheck all year long sounds great! I don’t know if that is as creative as it is essential! [laughs] I want to continue what I have tried to do over the last couple of years, which is to pick different projects that stretch me as an actor, work with creative and inspiring directors, writers and other actors. I hope to keep building on what I have tried to build over the course of my career so far.
That is a great segue to my next question. You are very diligent about choosing some great projects and keeping your career moving forward in exciting ways. What are the keys to longevity in this business?
I guess that is yet to be determined for me! Don’t feel like it’s been that long! [laughs] My career has been long but I think success has been more recent, so I don’t know if I can completely answer. However, I would say being true to who you are and going with your gut on things is very important. I think we oftentimes get in our heads about whether to say yes to this project or whether to disappoint people by saying no to do another project. I think you just have to be true to yourself and go with your gut. I think the more you do that the more confident you will be with who you are and it will show in your work as well. I think that’s why I’m probably starting to have more success recently because I am being true to myself.
Where do you look for creative inspiration?
There is a lot of great channels for work right now in television and film. With television, I feel there are so many different ways to watch it. Additionally, you are seeing so many unbelievable film actors coming back to television that it makes it not only more competitive but also the writing and work is so much better. I’m all over the place with my television watching these days. There are so many shows that I am not sure how they are successful but they are brilliant. A great example is “Stranger Things,” which was a show I was watching recently. I thought, “How is this show this good?!” It’s so good and the kids are amazing! On paper, the show shouldn’t really be successful but it is! There is no telling where it’s coming from and I feel people are becoming more and more creative with how they’re putting their writing out there. There are also producers who are taking chances on things that in the past wouldn’t have been safe bets but their risk is paying off! I find all of that incredibly inspiring!
You have a new film out called “Bakery In Brooklyn.” What can you tell us about the film and what intrigued you about the role?
The timing was great! I think we had last spoken around the time “Annabelle” came out. I was out in Los Angeles and I live on the East Coast. I got on a Skype call with Gustavo Ron, who directed the film, and we really hit it off. We talked about the character I play in the film, Paul, and I can definitely relate to someone who is faced with the dilemma of what they need to do versus what they should do or their heart versus their work. I run to that many times and I think it’s something we have all experienced sometime in our life. Paul is definitely doing that in the film. His bank wants to take this bakery away from these two cousins but he kind of falls for one of them. It comes down to either do the right thing and lose his job or keep his job and stray away from what he really wants to do. For me, all things lined up and I got to shoot back home in New York, specifically Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a really fun area to shoot in and you can really see that in the cinematography of the film; the area almost plays a character of its own. It was beautifully shot.
What did Gustavo Ron bring to the table as a director for this project and what did he bring out in you creatively?
As the writer of the film as well, he was quite close to it. He really allowed us as actors to find our moments. Because it’s a film that was originally written in a different language and being a romantic comedy, there were some adjustments that had to be made on the translation. He was completely open to air collaboration that allowed us to make sure we got it as right as we could. To me, it was the collaboration that really attracted me to the project. As you can see in the film, Gustavo has a wonderful life or cinematography. The shots that he created were beautiful and overall it was a highly collaborative and creative project.
You had good chemistry with the other actors on screen. Did you have much time to break the ice before you began shooting?
No, we were just thrown in the fire. I had just gotten home from LA and we went right to it, so no, but I think we hit it off really well. Aimee Teegarden, Krysta Rodriguez, Linda Lavin, Ernie Sabella, who is a legend I adore, and myself were all able to hit the ground running with it. It’s funny you mention this because Krysta, Aimee and I were out in LA earlier this year and we were all shooting pilots in the city at the same time. We all got together and had a dinner. Not too long after that, all of our shows got picked up, so we all decided that we’re all going to get together during every pilot season and hopefully we will continue to get our shows picked up!
That’s great! Looking back on this project, what was the biggest lesson you learned from being a part of this cast?
I learned that sometimes you just have to jump in. I think that’s why you have to have good representation because they convince you to do things that maybe you don’t see yourself doing. I feel all of us as actors have a fair amount of fear and we need a little bit of a push to do things! That is definitely something I learned with this film. I didn’t know Gustavo or his work, other than doing a little bit of research beforehand, and decided to jump in, go with it and trust the writing. Experiences can be good, even if things don’t make sense to you at first. Sometimes you just have to take that risk and go for it!
You mentioned the series you are currently starring on. What can you tell us about “Pure Genius” and the character you play?
It’s a show for CBS, a one-hour drama. We shot the pilot in March, we got picked up and we are about 11 episodes into the first season. It’s been a truly wonderful experience! The cast and crew have really gelled. Jason Katims, the creator of our show, has done “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights.” Speaking of “Friday Night Lights” and Aimee Teegarden, you can see it all comes full circle! It’s been a great experience and it trickles down from him. He creates a wonderful environment on set and it really carries through to everyone involved. On the show, I play the role of Dr. Scott Strauss. The show is about a text tighten starts a hospital pro-bono; he pays for everything and melds the worlds of technology and medicine together to create the hospital of tomorrow. My character is one of the doctor’s that he has on his staff and has a bit of a history; he is actually an ordained minister. He also speaks fluent Mandarin, which I do not, but Dr. Scott Strauss does! That was an education by fire! [laughs] It’s been a wonderful character. He has a little bit of mystery to him and it plays out throughout the course of the season.
What did you bring to the character that might not have been on the original written page?
You know, it’s kind of funny; originally this character was much different. The writers must have seen something in me that changed their minds about how the character was. When I first read the sides for the original audition, the character was quite different than what we ended up putting on screen. Originally, he was more of an arrogant, Ivy League asshole. [laughs] That’s what he was originally and then he ended up being a Mandarin speaking priest! [laughs] Somehow they saw something in my temperament that led them away from going the douchebag route to the man of the cloth route! It was quite surprising to me when I was informed of that right before we started shooting the second episode. I went with it and I think, maybe, my demeanor changed their minds about how they wanted this guy to be.
When it comes to creating characters and flushing them out, is there a process you undertake to bring them to life?
Every character is different but usually there is always something you need to focus on that isn’t particularly in your wheelhouse. For instance, with “Pure Genius,” I’m not a doctor. However, I was able to do some research and spend some time over at Cedars-Sinai Hospital and work with some of the doctors who were there, especially their digital health group. What we are doing on the show is exactly what they are doing at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in bringing all of this new age medical technology to the medical profession. By doing so, they are making patients lives easier and more efficient when they are in the hospital. They’re also coming up with ways to use this technology to solve medical problems that no one has been touching. There was definitely a lot of research that had to go into that! We got to go into the O.R. and things like that. We have also been very fortunate on this show to have doctors at our disposal to walk us through different surgeries. For me, that was a big aspect of it! I knew I really needed to wrap my brain around the medicine side of it. Every project has a little something special in it. My character, Paul, in “Bakery In Brooklyn,” is from the banking world. While one time I was in finance, I wasn’t in the real estate finance world but that is also something I spent a little time wrapping my brain around.
I know our time is short, so I want to hit you with an important question. Many people can look to what you accomplished as an inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
I think it comes down to working hard, never giving up and always studying as an actor. I think a lot of people might get to a certain level of success and might feel they don’t have to work on their craft anymore. Like any person in the arts or who has a special skill set, you have to continue to work on it and mix things up to grow creatively. As soon as I got back to New York, I was back in class the same day with a group of people I work with. I’m always excited to try new things and bring the things I have learned from the work that I just did into the mix and see how it works in a new setting. So, in short, I would say keep at it. Keep your head down and go for it. If you believe in it, you can make it happen.
Thanks again for your time today, Ward! It’s great to talk with you again and I’m sure our paths will cross again very soon!
Thank you, Jason! I appreciate it!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.