“If you really pay attention to what you can achieve through what you have, you’ll be amazing.”—Mack Wilds
New York City is quite the character—such a larger than life entity. The Big Apple plays a major role in the lives of 8.5 million inhabitants (and growing!) more directly than indirectly. Equal parts deflating and elevating, “The City That Never Sleeps” can either be a nightmare of Freddy Krueger proportions, or a dream as never-ending as the cacophony of car horns during rush hour, buses hulking down the street while trains navigate through underground tunnels, hurried click-clacking of shoes terrorizing the concrete, and various forms of chitter-chatter throughout this bustling town. It’s all in how you internalize NYC’s many intricacies. Listen…you can hear the city breathing. It’s the five boroughs that breathes life into Tristan “Mack” Wilds. It fuels him to no end. “It has its own heartbeat,” proudly says the 27-year-old actor and singer, who hails from Staten Island. “One of the biggest inspirations to me is my city. New York is the epitome of constant grind. No matter if it’s during the day, at night, there’s always something going on. There’s always movement. And that’s what I look like when I’m on my grind.”
It’s that element that was birthed in a creative household in the notorious Stapleton projects, where music was the soundtrack of the household. “My mom would sing around the house, my sisters would sing around the house,” he recalls. “We were a very musical family. My dad did music, my grandfathers on both sides were singers, my older brothers were rappers. Everybody had their own niche, but when I was growing up the first thing on my mind was music.” But, as fate would have it, crooning wouldn’t lead him to notoriety in the infant stages of what would be a career that others would envy. “Acting came about when I was in school. I remember doing a few plays and my teachers saying, ‘you’re really good.’ My response was ‘eh, whatever.’ Not even thinking about where I would be today. But, after a while, I just wanted to try to be something different instead of letting the ills of my neighborhood consume another young soul.”
After expressing this moment of clarity to his mother, Wilds was given “enough money for a MetroCard and to get some headshots, and the rest was history.” In 2005, at the age of 15, he made his television debut in the teen mini-series Miracle Boys. From there, Wilds took to the stage performing in various plays, working alongside the likes of Phylicia Rashad. In ‘06, the young’n landed a major role in HBO’s venerable The Wire. That same year, Wilds made his silver screen debut in the Ryan Gosling-helmed, Half Nelson, which was the toast of the Sundance Film Festival. The projects continued to roll in afterward with guest and starring parts on TV (Law & Order, Cold Case, 90210), film (The Secret Life of Bees, Red Tails) and music videos (Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys”, Alicia Keys’ “Teenage Love Affair”) padding his resume. “One of the best things that I have on my side as an actor is that you can play a different character,” says Wilds. “You get to jump into different lifestyles. You get to learn different things.”
Still, while his IMDB profile was lit, Wilds still had the fire within to try his hand at music. A chance encounter with acclaimed producer Salaam Remi is what struck the match, culminating in his 2013 debut album called, what else, New York: A Love Story. Riding the wave of the smash singles “Own It” and “Henny,” the R&B opus dedicated to his stomping grounds earned Wilds a Grammy nomination the following year. Not bad for a kid from Shaolin, huh? “There is such a thing as being a positive product of your environment,” he says. “You hear such negative connotations of that, but there is positive meaning because I am the forefront of it.”
Never resting on his laurels, the grind continues for Wilds. After playing Adele’s love interest in her 2015 chart-topper, “Hello,” earlier this year, many watched his leading man chops in the VH1 original movie, The Breaks. After its success, the 90’s-inspired film has morphed into a series for the network, which is currently filming for its first full-fledged season. Wilds also is a part of an all-star cast in the Fox 10-part drama, Shots Fired. And, of course, he’s in the studio working on new music. It’s that versatility that keeps his grind constantly going. There aren’t enough hours in the day for Mack Wilds. And when it comes to his hustle, that suits him just fine.
“The way that you find your formula is introspection,” he states. “I don’t think a lot of people really take the time to look at themselves and understand what they possess or the powers that they have. It’s like using the weapons you have at your disposal and learning how to use them…. Every plateau you hit there will always be people who don’t fully believe or understand what you do. But you prove them wrong. You show them the art that you possess inside of your body. And then you revel in it after you push it in their face.”
Such a New York state of mind.
To see the full video on Mack and learn more about his hustle formula, visit The Formula.