“I talk to my friends all the time. Their DMs be crazy lit up with naked pictures—all types of craziness, and I get girls that hit me up and say, ‘yo I want to marry you.’”
Mack Wilds confesses this to me as if he’s surprised that women would be drawn to his dimpled, sometimes-crooked smile or his seemingly good-boy charm. Like the falsettos that he hit on the single “Don’t Turn Me Down” off of his debut album New York: A Love Story didn’t curl toes and provoke deep…umm…feelings. Or that his ability to slip in and out of multiple characters—his breakout role as the troubled teen in The Wire, the passionate pilot in Red Tails, the new kid on the block in 90210—doesn’t demonstrate his level of versatility and dedication to mastering his craft. Or perhaps we should ignore the fact that even Adele—a musical beast in her own right—saw something in this American boy that led to him being cast as the leading man in her record-breaking hit “Hello.” Yeah, Mack, I’m not buying that you don’t know why you’re deemed as husband-material.
Not to mention that he has this thing for love songs—ones that talk about embracing love, making love, and getting back to love like in the 90s. It’s no wonder that the ladies are taking him up on his invitation to be his dream girl.
But Mack Wilds is more than just a lover boy with good acting chops, he’s a self-proclaimed Renaissance Man that believes that “nothing’s too much” for him, and won’t stop until the world sees Mack Wilds as a brand, and not just one of the many characters that people identify him by.
While he’s busy building his legacy, the Staten Island native managed to slip in some time for good conversation about courtship, overcoming fear, and what makes him worthy of being a leading man. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with more than just his television characters.
Congrats on “The Breaks.” Did you plan that with the release of “Love in the 90z?”
You know what’s crazy, the way that it all came out and played out it was weird, uncanny timing. I was planning on dropping it anyway, but when the promo for The Breaks started ramping up and right after the Adele stuff I had already locked in everything with the label, so it’s like this is all perfect.
You have a new album coming out this year with “Love in the 90z” as the lead single. Will this album be centered around love like with “New York: A Love Story?”
I think it’s definitely going to be another love story in a sense, but I’m experimenting with different sounds and just trying to build on the sound of New York, and show what the modern sound of New York is. I think with the last album I played around with what New York felt like overall, but now I want to touch on different things like exploring the different feeling that the city can give, especially at night time.
You mean like the vibe or the energy?
Yeah, I think there’s something magical about New York at night; it’s scary, but it’s still beautiful. It’s gritty. It’s sexy. It has a certain level of vibration to it. So I’m trying to capture all of that in the music.
It seems like in our generation the whole idea of love, marriage and even intimacy has kind of shifted. What is your perception of what love was back in the 90s vs. what it is today?
I think our generation, when it comes to what that old sense of love and courtship, it’s kind of disappeared. I think men and women on both sides have different expectations, and I think even in this information age we are too privy to a lot more information that we usually would get during a courtship scene, or during that romancing phase. So when you would take a girl out and chill with her you possibly realize where her mind is, or to even get even deeper, to see what her body looks like outside of her clothes. Now you can go on Instagram and see all of that. So I think the courtship and everything, a lot of stuff has changed for this generation. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just a part of the generation.
I think there still is going to be mystery when you first meet someone because you have to figure out who they really are. You can only get so much from a tweet, or you can only see so much on Snapchat or on Instagram. I think there’s still a certain level of mystery, I just think that the timing that we would get to know each other has changed. How long it would take to really build something strong has changed. I think a lot of times, those relationships that we know and love from the older days, they took a little more time to harvest and to make [a relationship] concrete. It’s not the relationships where you first meet the girl and you’re like, ‘you know I love you. I love everything I see on Instagram.’
What’s a lesson that your mom taught you about women?
To be smart, I think that’s the biggest thing. To be smart and think with the head that I have on my shoulders. Not the one anywhere else (laughs).
I read that Cancers always on lookout for a partner who would resemble his mother in terms of the perfection exuded by her. Is that true?
I think it is to a certain extent. My mom is an extremely strong woman. Raising six Wilds kids, it definitely gets crazy, but you know watching her and watching my dad take care of us and do everything that they needed to do to make sure that we were good, you can see the human spirit, you can see the strength. So I definitely look for that strength, that intelligence, that resilience in the different women that I encounter.
In an interview a couple of years ago you said that as an actor people look at you as a vessel and not as who you are. So who is Mack Wilds? Is it hard for people to fall in love with you versus his character or the idea of him?
I think once you actually get to know me, once you understand who I am and what I am, I think you automatically get a different sense of who I am. As Mack Wilds, I’m just a kid from the projects who loved being creative and used something that he loved to change his life, his family’s life, and hopefully change the lives of others, and continue to strive for more. I’m never really content with myself. I’m always reaching for my next dream and trying to make that come true. I’m never not working, so I think the girls that can deal with it, they fall in love with my work ethic. I’m not fully content with just sitting back and just chilling. I mean, I enjoy my time where I’m just sitting back at home on vacation or something you know you cut your phone off, chill in the crib, Netflix and chill it up. But I think there’s something that’s sexy about ambition. I’m extremely ambitious.
I’m pretty open, but again ambition is a beautiful thing. I’d rather take towards the more intelligent, ambitious woman rather than someone who’s sitting home dealing with me and living through my ambitions.
[Tweet “I’d rather take towards an ambitious woman than someone living through my ambitions -@mackwilds”]
You mentioned courtship earlier. So, I’ve never been to Staten Island. Let’s say we’re going on a date in Stapleton (his hometown). Where are you taking me?
First and foremost, we’re going to get out of Stapleton (laughs).
Oh is it that bad?!
I’m just saying, it’s the projects. So unless you want to get some crown fried chicken.
Oh okay! So we’re out of Stapleton (laughs). Where are we going?
Honestly, I remember as kid when I first was just running around the city with any girl from Staten Island, a lot of people don’t leave Staten Island. So even getting on that ferry boat and just going somewhere, finding a dope little restaurant in Battery Park, or going to the movie theaters just across the water is an adventure. Then you have to start to get close to the person–just trust the person and that they won’t have you lost out here. But I knew my way around the city at 13 or 14, so just moving around trying to get off of Staten Island, it would be one of my go-to’s.
If a girl were to surprise you with a date, what’s one of your dating fantasies?
One of the things that I love, especially as a Cancer, I love the feeling of home. I move around a lot and I’m working a lot, so I don’t always get a chance to be home. So if she were to surprise me, a dope date would be a candlelight dinner at the house. Cook something for me at the crib. Make it real dope, romantic, sexy so that we don’t have to go nowhere else. We can watch the movies here, we can eat here, and then we can lead into other things (laughs).
You had an interview recently with Wendy Williams where you mentioned that you love dark skin women, and she kind of reacted in surprise. What did you think about her reaction?
Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it. Wendy is like family to me, so that’s a conversation that we have all the time. So I don’t think it was anything; it was her being playful. I don’t think that there was any type of ill intent towards what I was saying. Especially for me, like I said [in the interview], my mom is a brown skin woman, so growing up in an household with my mom who is brown skin and my aunt who is brown, like I have so many beautiful colors and women around me my entire life, you learn to appreciate every single color of a woman. It’s not like I would ever look down. I know some girls who would be considered dark skin that are way prettier than your average light skin girl, and vice versa. I think with Wendy in particular, especially since we talk about it all the time, I think it just got blown out of proportion.
You’ve been the leading man in a lot of videos (Adele’s “Hello,” Bridget Kelly’s “Act Like That,” Sevyn Streeter’s “nEXt and “B.A.N.S.”). What does being a man and being a leader mean to you?
A leader, I think it’s not necessarily just about intelligence or being brave, it’s all of those things into one. It’s about being strong enough to lead something. To be the person who everyone has to follow and watch and pay attention to, and to understand that if you’re a leader people trust you with the mission. Whether it’s their lives, a song, a video, they trust you enough to push forward and to make the right choices in order to make this mission successful.
And to be a man I think is everything that we know about being a man. You always hear to be strong, to hold your own, to take care of the family and protect, and all that and more. Especially now, with the single mothers and the single fathers, you see fathers and men having to be nurturing and to be careful of hearts, and expectations.
Do you feel like there’s a lack of leadership among men or that women are not allowing men to be the leaders and they’re assuming those roles?
I think that could be part of it, but I think one of the biggest things about love that a lot of people don’t realize is the balance. You can’t be a man if you expect your woman to be a man. It’s a balance. You’re putting too much on one side of the scale. People should look at love a lot more like a balance system, especially now that there are so many strong-minded, amazing women that can go out here and hustle and protect just like any other man. When it comes to love, the man that you’re with you’re supposed to have some sort of balance with him. If you’re going to be the man, then he’s going to have to assume the role of more of a feminine one, and vice versa.
If you’re going to be a man out in the world, when you come home be the woman for your man.
I think it all depends on how we all look at it, and I don’t think we have enough leaders telling us that because they never went through it. It’s brand new. Back in their day courtships and everything that they were doing was completely different. That’s why I say I can’t blame anyone, it’s just that we don’t have any representatives that are old enough that we can look to like, ‘yo, OG help me with this!’ Steve Harvey was the closest one so far with his books.
One of the biggest fears, and I think it’s any kid anywhere in the world because I was legit about to make it just a kid from the projects thing, but I think any kid in the world you have fear of it not working and having to go back to your regular everyday norm. My regular everyday norm was back in the projects. I was cutting hair in my dad’s barbershop. I was in school. When you get a taste of something different, to go back to your every day norm is scary. You don’t know if you’ll be able to keep it up or even compete with any of the stuff that you’ve done in the past. If people would look at you as a has-been. Or something. So I think that’s one of the biggest fears.
Fear is a crazy thing, something that you fear the most will lead you to that fear. You being afraid of that fear will lead you into that fear. So I try to keep the right people around me, my parents are all up in my ear at the same time. And my friends and my family, you kind of keep the mindset of I don’t want to do that so I’m not going to do it. Keep working and keep striving and keep fighting for more.
[Tweet “When you get a taste of something different, to go back to your every day norm is scary.”]
What’s something that you’re working on within yourself?
I think staying as proactive as possible. A lot of times I feel I don’t use time as much as I want to, and that sounds crazy because I work all the damn time. But there’s a lot of times that I’m sitting down and I’m like man, I could really be playing my guitar right now or I could be writing this script right now. Or man, I could write up this treatment for another music video, and I guess one thing I’ve learned to work on myself is being a little more proactive with my time.
What do you want your legacy to be?
When I’m long gone, I want people to know me as the new age Renaissance Man. I’m not a “jack of all trades and a master of none,” I’m legit a Renaissance Man. Anything I touch has a certain quality of amazing–a certain level of dopeness attached to it. If you see Mack Wilds or the brand attached to it, you understand that it’s a certain quality, and that I will never rest unless I give you the best that I have.
Are you still living by the words “nothing’s too much” or has that changed?
Nah, I definitely live by that now, there’s so many scripts that I’m reading right now, that would make the average man’s head spin off. But I don’t think there’s anything that I can’t accomplish. I don’t think there’s nothing that is too much, so I definitely live by those words.
Tell me about the tattoo on your right arm. I see John 3:16, what was the inspiration behind that tattoo?
It’s a skull with a crown of thorns. It’s adorned by roses and it has the banner that says John 3:16, you know that’s when God gave up his own begotten son for our salvation. So with the skull, with the crown of thorns and the roses around it, it keeps me in the right mindset that there’s something beautiful that can come from something major that you lose. You can lose something, but you gain something even greater. You just have to remember to see the beauty in the loss.
[Tweet “There’s something beautiful that can come from something major that you lose. – @MackWilds”]
I got it right after I finished 90210, and I remember thinking what are we going to do now? It was a bittersweet feeling, so I was in a weird place of trying to figure out how I was going to move and how I was going to do everything. And Salaam [Remi] called and I was thinking if I was to keep going on 90210, I wouldn’t have been able to get this album off and make the album that I wanted. So the tattoo just symbolizes that moment in my life where I didn’t know what to do because I had just lost something, but it was something beautiful that came out of that loss.
What’s something about you that a lot of people don’t know?
How into the arts I am. I’m very much an artist in the sense that I use other art forms and things that inspire me for my music or character development with acting. I try to use all different art forms: music, paintings I see, drawings, graffiti or whatever I try to use all of that to help me with other art that I do.