Ving Rhames was born and raised in Harlem, New York. His career as a thespian began at the New York High School of Performing Arts, followed by training at the prestigious Julliard School of Drama.
Soon thereafter, the talented actor landed his first role on Broadway in The Winter Boys. In 1985, he made his first TV appearance in Go Tell It On the Mountain.
Ving subsequently segued to feature films, and was eventually cast as a merciless drug dealer opposite Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. That performance helped him land the role of Luther Stickell in Mission: Impossible opposite Tom Cruise.
Ving has since starred in many other blockbusters, such as Rosewood and Con Air. In 1998, he won a Golden Globe for his powerful portrayal of Don King in Don King: Only in America.
He ventured behind the camera in 2005 as a producer for the USA series Kojak. His producer credits also include: Back In The Day, Animal and Shooting Gallery.
Here, Ving talks about reprising his role as Luther in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation which is in theaters now.
KW: I will be mixing in my own questions with some sent in by fans. Kevin Williams says: Since you play weapons expert Luther Stickell on the IMF team, do you try to keep up with what is going on with military hardware in the real world?
VR: Quite honestly, I play a computer expert, not a weapons expert. Luther’s a computer geek, so I don’t know where Kevin got that misperception from. But I don’t really keep up with developments in quote “hand-to-hand” combat type weapons or other military technology, except drones. However, I do gang intervention in California, and there are a lot of those military weapons in the ‘hood with the Crips and the Bloods. I hate to say it, but you can find almost anything there in terms of military weaponry, even grenade launchers.
KW: How did you enjoy reuniting with Tom Cruise to make Rogue Nation?
VR: Kam, we did the first one eighteen years ago, so I feel very blessed and very privileged. And outside of Tom Cruise, I’m the only person who’s been in all five films. And I think that I might have made history for an African-American. I don’t know whether any black actor has been in an original and four sequels. You know what I’m saying? So, I really have to thank Tom, and I’m glad to be a part of this process.
KW: Hisani Dubose says: An African-American actor once told me that it is extremely difficult for black males with deep voices and a strong presence to get work. So, how did you manage to succeed in spite of that?
VR: First of all, I don’t agree with that assumption. But here’s how I feel about it. I attended the High School of Performing Arts, and I graduated from the Juilliard School. So, I believe in being trained, just like you have to do with any profession. As a professor, she had to get a master’s degree. I find that a lot of aspiring actors never really train, and yet think they can just act. Being a black man with a deep voice is actually more of a plus. I do voiceovers for Arbys, ADT, and other companies. So, I make a lot of money by basically using not only my voice, but also my size, as far as the camera is concerned. But train, go to school and train. Become a craftsman.
KW: Harriet asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
VR: Yes, Brother John, a very old film Sidney Poitier I caught one night. It didn’t do well. It was barely seen. He plays a Christ-like character who returns to the small town where he was raised. You have to check it out.
KW: Will do. Steve Kramer asks: How would you describe your work ethic today?
VR: I’m learning to work now, and I’ll use the analogy of working out in the gym. When I was 25 or 30, I worked out one way. Now, at 56, I work out another way. What I think I’ve learned to do is use my energy more wisely. I’m a better actor now in terms of conveying the dramatic arc of a character and my overall intention. Because I’m more seasoned, I know my instrument better. And often, less is more. That’s the major lesson I’ve learned. A lot of young actors expend energy unnecessarily on things that don’t need that much energy.
KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
VR: Braiding my mother’s hair. I was the baby in the family, and she taught me how to braid her hair. What she would do was give me a brush when she wanted to take a nap. That way, she could get some rest, and know I wasn’t getting into any trouble. That’s one of my fondest and most powerful memories.