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Exclusive TV Goodness Q&A: Single Ladies’ Travis Winfrey [INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: Collin Stark
Photo Credit: Collin Stark

Actor Travis Winfrey plays the sexy and stylin’ Omar Kearse on VH1’s hit scripted series, Single Ladies. Omar’s gay, outspoken and works for Raquel at her chichi store called Indulgence — and he remains fierce and fashionable while doing so. Winfrey recently talked to TV Goodness about his show, his character’s wardrobe vs. his own personal style, and what’s in store for Omar this season. He also opened up about his past, his present and his future.

TV GOODNESS: How did Single Ladies come about for you?

TRAVIS WINFREY: It’s a funny story, actually. I was back at home visiting my mother in Atlanta. I had taken a couple of months off just to go take care of my brother transitioning into college. And right when I was coming back my manager said, Hey man, they’re doing this little local hire thing. Might as well read the part.’ And I was reading for, I booked the part of LisaRaye’s boyfriend or boy toy in the beginning and I asked them to play Omar. And the day before I was flying back home I ran into Shakim [Compere], one of the producers, in the gym, and he told me, ‘Hey man you might not want to leave. We liked what you did with that character.’ I asked him can I play a different part? They kind of agreed with me. And that’s how Omar came about. It’s called Single Ladies and I made a good choice.

TV GOODNESS: So what was it about Omar that really reached out to you?

TRAVIS: When I read the script, the other character had a bigger part. But Omar had an individual scene with each one of the ladies and I…just by looking at my IMDB you can tell I don’t have that much acting…I’m still new to it. So it was a chance for me to get a demo reel with each lady like Eve and Stacey Dash and LisaRaye and everybody else and, honestly, his first line was “Dude, I’m not that gay.” And I thought that was a really bold statement for the gay character to say. And I thought I could do something with this. I could have some controversy. I could play a non-stereotypical gay character who kind of has the asshole-ness of an alpha male which I really liked. And that’s what happened. I was attracted to the character. I got it.

TV GOODNESS: What’s going to happen with your character this season? Omar just met a guy playing football…

TRAVIS: It’s very funny because the producers did a lot of digging into our real past and some of our real skills. This season with Omar is going to be a much more in depth storyline. There’s a lot more drama instead of him just being the comedic relief. We get to see him interact with his family. We get to see what happened with his sister. A lot of drama. And…let’s just say there’s a big change in Omar’s income. I can’t give away too much.

TV GOODNESS: What kind of feedback do you get on the character?

TRAVIS: Well, the feedback has been fantastic. It’s still surreal to think that going from auditioning and bartending and waiting tables and then one night — in literally one night — people recognize me on the street and in the mall. It’s so much love that I don’t believe it actually. I think everybody’s hating because they’re so nice.

TV GOODNESS: Let’s just step back. How did you get into acting? You sing as well, right?

TRAVIS: You can call it that. It’s called Advanced Screaming 101, yeah. I sing a little bit. I used to be in a character education group. I was in college. I was studying astrophysics. Blah, blah, blah, my girlfriend cheated on me and a guy gave me an opportunity. One of the guys from Jagged Edge — his cousin heard me singing — I was singing some Ginuwine song. Long story short, after a couple of months my picture ended up on the desk of some guy at So So Def [Productions] and they were putting out this corny character education group that went around to schools and I had a week to decide so my girlfriend left for Sweden. And I found out she cheated on me with some other dude. It was like a long drama story right out of the movie and I put all her s—t out on the street, dropped out of school. I did pretty good. I had no reason to drop out. I just wanted to go. There was something calling me out there and I…we ended up doing three shows a day, six days a week, for four years of just loading our own equipment. I learned a lot and that’s where I got the acting from. I never wanted to be an actor. My buddy was in the business of acting and he always wanted to do it. And I used to make fun of him. And I’m like, ‘Why would you want to do that? It’s crazy. It’s so hard. It’s crazy. Difficult to get in.’ And we got dropped from our label maybe three years that when Warner Bros. and Elektra and Atlantic merged together and I was stuck in New York. And an angel came out of nowhere — I don’t even know where this lady came from — she paid for me to go to a competition called IMTA. I did that. The singing part of it. And I did pretty decent. And she had me modeling. I guess that worked out well. And she signed me up without me knowing for a monologue competition and I did a scene from Next Friday. Everybody was doing Scarface and all these serious things and I got my first agent that way. The manager saw me do my monologue and I guess I was funny enough to become an actor.

TV GOODNESS: From astrophysics to acting…so now do you think that acting was what you were meant to do?

TRAVIS: I’ve always been a performer. I mean, I’ve known that. I just didn’t realize it would be so much in front of the camera. I’ve always been a storyteller or a character, I guess…the class clown, however you want to call it. A jack of all trades, master of none. I want to do everything but I can’t do all of it so acting is the most logical step. I get to be a fireman and a police officer and an astronaut — everything I wanted to be as a kid. At least for a week.

TV GOODNESS: What is your ultimate goal? Is acting it? Or do you want to move on and do some producing and directing?

TRAVIS: Yes, I would love to produce and direct. That’s the natural — acting is a means to an end, of course. And I mean the producing game is a very, very monstrous one so one at a time. My goal is to have a full spectrum entertainment company to somehow merge my love of animation and Japanese anime and martial arts and music into one cohesive product. And I’m working on it. I’ll have a brand soon. That’s always the goal.

TV GOODNESS: Back to Omar and Single Ladies. Is it fun to wear Omar’s wardrobe? And how different is your personal style from your character’s style?

Photo Credit: Laretta Houston for VH1

TRAVIS: I think Omar’s pants size is two sizes smaller than what I would wear normally. Maybe three. Yeah. Omar’s style is a little bright and colorful for me. He’s very risky. But I like it. It opens me up to things I wouldn’t normally wear. But no, not so many blazers for me. I’m not that fashionable in real life. I’m a jeans and t-shirt guy. The same jeans and the same shirt — if I can get away with it three days in a row like if nobody sees me, I’m in a jeans and t-shirt all week.

TV GOODNESS: Single Ladies is known for having great guest stars. Who has been your favorite? And who would you love to see guest star on the show? 

TRAVIS: I would love to see Neil Patrick Harris come on our show. And that way…from How I Met Your Mother. We can have a scene together. But my favorite guest star has probably been Paula Patton. She’s hilarious.

TV GOODNESS: Oh yeah. I was watching and I was like ‘Is that Paula Patton?’ That was great.

TRAVIS: Most of our guest stars actually come on because they’re fans of the show. So [rapper] T.I. was telling us that he was a fan of the show. It’s, ironically, the number one show in the prison system. That’s a real fact by the way. So we have a lot of rappers sitting in jail waiting to get on Single Ladies.

TV GOODNESS: The ratings are always up there for this show. Why do you think Single Ladies has connected with people?

TRAVIS: I don’t know. I don’t know at all. I have no idea the formula that goes behind it. Because I am so involved in the process of making it, that I don’t get to see the big picture until everybody else does. So I’m just as shocked at how beautiful and bright and colorful it looks, the music that goes into it. I only get to see a very, very small part of it. So I’m still in awe of what is happening with the show. And I’m experiencing it just like everybody else. So I have no idea what draws everybody in. I’m still watching the episodes myself.

TV GOODNESS: Can you talk about some of your other projects outside Single Ladies?

TRAVIS: I have a couple of projects. One is called Breuckelen — that is an indie, an online little pilot that I was working on. I produced that one. And I helped out with my buddy pitching that. And then we’re working on a feature film called Last Hours. It’s working my band’s music into a movie. Sex, drugs and rock and roll.

TV GOODNESS: You touched on this a little before, but now you’re getting more experience behind the scenes. How is that for you?

TRAVIS: It’s fantastic. Everybody is so open to giving you knowledge. It’s like a free college course. There’s no better way to learn how this business works than to be in it. You don’t get the same experience as you would as if you’re doing it — like especially Single Ladies. The crew is so open they’re so nice. They let you use the camera, they let you do your own shots. And that’s very flexible. I’m blessed to be on such a very open set. And I get to learn so much that I wouldn’t get to learn working on another project.

TV GOODNESS: And you do have a band called Peach Tree Industrial?

TRAVIS: Yes, we’re based in Atlanta. My bandmates are still back in Atlanta. And it’s kind of hard to do it while I’m doing the press and doing the auditions for other stuff so when I’m…in my off time we work on it. Now we’re doing it in a movie that way we get to do both.

TV GOODNESS: What is it like shooting in Atlanta?

TRAVIS: I hadn’t lived in Atlanta in like 15 years. Maybe 20, actually. I’m one of the only cast members who’s actually from there. I think I am the only cast member who’s from there. So going back was very strange. Some of my high school friends are actually working on the crew.

TV GOODNESS: That’s amazing.

TRAVIS: And we didn’t even know until half way through the season. ‘Did we go to school together?’ It’s great to be back home. And it’s kind of fulfilling to come back and go back and see my high school and go tell the teachers ‘Ha ha, I told you so.’

TV GOODNESS: You said you were out auditioning. Are there any specific shows you would love to be on? 

TRAVIS: Single Ladies is taking up all my time. I would love to star on Almost Human or Chicago P.D. I can think of tons of shows. But the main goal is to jump into the film because I’m pretty locked down on the TV.

Single Ladies airs Monday nights at 10/9c on VH1.

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