Exclusive TV Goodness Q&A: Single Ladies’ Travis Winfrey [INTERVIEW]
Actor Travis Winfrey plays the sexy and stylinâ€™ Omar Kearse on VH1â€™s hit scripted series, Single Ladies. Omarâ€™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 characterâ€™s wardrobe vs. his own personal style, and whatâ€™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: Itâ€™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, theyâ€™re doing this little local hire thing. Might as well read the part.â€™ And I was reading for, I booked the part of LisaRayeâ€™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, â€˜Hey man you might not want to leave. We liked what you did with that character.â€™ I asked him can I play a different part? They kind of agreed with me. And thatâ€™s how Omar came about. Itâ€™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 Iâ€¦just by looking at my IMDB you can tell I donâ€™t have that much actingâ€¦Iâ€™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 â€œDude, Iâ€™m not that gay.â€ 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 thatâ€™s what happened. I was attracted to the character. I got it.
TV GOODNESS: Whatâ€™s going to happen with your character this season? Omar just met a guy playing footballâ€¦
TRAVIS: Itâ€™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. Thereâ€™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. Andâ€¦letâ€™s just say thereâ€™s a big change in Omarâ€™s income. I canâ€™t give away too much.
TV GOODNESS: What kind of feedback do you get on the character?
TRAVIS: Well, the feedback has been fantastic. Itâ€™s still surreal to think that going from auditioning and bartending and waiting tables and then one night â€” in literally one night â€” people recognize me on the street and in the mall. Itâ€™s so much love that I donâ€™t believe it actually. I think everybodyâ€™s hating because theyâ€™re so nice.
TV GOODNESS: Letâ€™s just step back. How did you get into acting? You sing as well, right?
TRAVIS: You can call it that. Itâ€™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 â€” his cousin heard me singing â€” 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 sâ€”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 Iâ€¦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 thatâ€™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 Iâ€™m like, â€˜Why would you want to do that? Itâ€™s crazy. Itâ€™s so hard. Itâ€™s crazy. Difficult to get in.â€™ 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 â€” I donâ€™t even know where this lady came from â€” 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 actingâ€¦so now do you think that acting was what you were meant to do?
TRAVIS: Iâ€™ve always been a performer. I mean, Iâ€™ve known that. I just didnâ€™t realize it would be so much in front of the camera. Iâ€™ve always been a storyteller or a character, I guessâ€¦the class clown, however you want to call it. A jack of all trades, master of none. I want to do everything but I canâ€™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 â€” 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. Thatâ€™s the natural â€” 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 Iâ€™m working on it. Iâ€™ll have a brand soon. Thatâ€™s always the goal.
TV GOODNESS: Back to Omar and Single Ladies. Is it fun to wear Omarâ€™s wardrobe? And how different is your personal style from your characterâ€™s style?
TRAVIS: I think Omarâ€™s pants size is two sizes smaller than what I would wear normally. Maybe three. Yeah. Omarâ€™s style is a little bright and colorful for me. Heâ€™s very risky. But I like it. It opens me up to things I wouldnâ€™t normally wear. But no, not so many blazers for me. Iâ€™m not that fashionable in real life. Iâ€™m a jeans and t-shirt guy. The same jeans and the same shirt â€” if I can get away with it three days in a row like if nobody sees me, Iâ€™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?Â
TRAVIS: I would love to see Neil Patrick Harris come on our show. And that wayâ€¦from How I Met Your Mother. We can have a scene together. But my favorite guest star has probably been Paula Patton. Sheâ€™s hilarious.
TV GOODNESS: Oh yeah. I was watching and I was like â€˜Is that Paula Patton?â€™ That was great.
TRAVIS: Most of our guest stars actually come on because theyâ€™re fans of the show. So [rapper] T.I. was telling us that he was a fan of the show. Itâ€™s, ironically, the number one show in the prison system. Thatâ€™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 donâ€™t know. I donâ€™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 donâ€™t get to see the big picture until everybody else does. So Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m still in awe of what is happening with the show. And Iâ€™m experiencing it just like everybody else. So I have no idea what draws everybody in. Iâ€™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 â€” 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 weâ€™re working on a feature film called Last Hours. Itâ€™s working my bandâ€™s music into a movie. Sex, drugs and rock and roll.
TV GOODNESS: You touched on this a little before, but now youâ€™re getting more experience behind the scenes. How is that for you?
TRAVIS: Itâ€™s fantastic. Everybody is so open to giving you knowledge. Itâ€™s like a free college course. Thereâ€™s no better way to learn how this business works than to be in it. You donâ€™t get the same experience as you would as if youâ€™re doing it â€” like especially Single Ladies. The crew is so open theyâ€™re so nice. They let you use the camera, they let you do your own shots. And thatâ€™s very flexible. Iâ€™m blessed to be on such a very open set. And I get to learn so much that I wouldnâ€™t get to learn working on another project.
TV GOODNESS: And you do have a band called Peach Tree Industrial?
TRAVIS: Yes, weâ€™re based in Atlanta. My bandmates are still back in Atlanta. And itâ€™s kind of hard to do it while Iâ€™m doing the press and doing the auditions for other stuff so when Iâ€™mâ€¦in my off time we work on it. Now weâ€™re doing it in a movie that way we get to do both.
TV GOODNESS: What is it like shooting in Atlanta?
TRAVIS: I hadnâ€™t lived in Atlanta in like 15 years. Maybe 20, actually. Iâ€™m one of the only cast members whoâ€™s actually from there. I think I am the only cast member whoâ€™s from there. So going back was very strange. Some of my high school friends are actually working on the crew.
TV GOODNESS: Thatâ€™s amazing.
TRAVIS: And we didnâ€™t even know until half way through the season. â€˜Did we go to school together?â€™ Itâ€™s great to be back home. And itâ€™s kind of fulfilling to come back and go back and see my high school and go tell the teachers â€˜Ha ha, I told you so.â€™
TV GOODNESS: You said you were out auditioning. Are there any specific shows you would love to be on?Â
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 Iâ€™m pretty locked down on the TV.
Single Ladies airs Monday nights at 10/9c on VH1.
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