American actor and star of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Jeff Ward began his acting career as a kid in Philadelphia, but got his big break after portraying the dark Charles Manson in Manson’s Lost Girls in 2016. In this article, we asked the young actor questions about his role in the Marvel universe and his life outside of his career.
How old were you when you first got into acting? I was in a play in first grade called Tom Thumb and the Toy Room...an original play by my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Schneider. I did it because I loved movies way more than anyone else I went to school with, so my grandmother talked me into it. I ended up playing the lead part, Tom Thumb Sr., and if you're wondering, yes there was also a Tom Thumb Jr. I didn't start acting for real until later, but I never forgot that experience.
Was acting always something you’ve been passionate about? I got really passionate about it after I got serious about acting as an art form becaus e I respected it so much. Movies were the way I connected with other people when I was young, so I always took it seriously because I knew the effect it could have on someone.
When did you get your first big break? It's weird because I don't know if I actually had anything that felt like a "big break" moment, but when I got the call that I was going to play Charles Manson in a movie, that was it for me. It's hard to classify as a big break because very few people have actually seen it, but it was the first time I got to play a part on film that was complicated, nuanced and deeply interesting if not unsettling. Playing a part like that was always my dream, so that was an incredibly cool moment.
What’s it like working on the set of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Exactly as you would imagine it. Everyone in the cast and on the crew have great senses of humor, so everyone laughs a lot. And they all constantly make fun of me which makes me feel like I'm among friends.
Is there any cast member you like to hang around on set with? We're lucky because everyone is fantastic and really fun to hang with, so it's the whole cast that I look forward to seeing every day. Clark gives me the most crap, Ming is a bad ass and one of the most unintentionally hilarious people I've ever met, and Henry is a giant with a heart of gold but has a vicious sneak attack with his jokes. Elizabeth is
literally running around doing everyone on the crew's job for them because that's when she's happiest. Chloe is usually Facetiming someone but she's really fun when she's not. Natalia is by far the nicest, and Iain....Iain's ok.
Who are your celebrity crushes? I have to say that when I saw Like Crazy I fell in love with Felicity Jones. Ditto with Michelle Monahagn in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but my first celebrity crush was Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
If you could have any Avenger’s powers, whose would it be? It's hard, but I think I'd have to go with Peter Parker. He was my favorite Marvel superhero and I always wanted his webslingers because he made them!
What qualities do you and your character Deke have in common? The biggest one is that we both cope with tragedy or hardship with humor. That's what drew me to the character to begin with. I loved that he would find humor in the darkest places. It makes him more human to me because people often minimize the craziest things that happen to us, especially when we express it to other people. Otherwise we would be crushed under the weight of the depressing reality that is life. I watch Seth Meyers every night because it helps to have someone really intelligent break down al l the horrible stuff I read that day in a way that makes me laugh.
What was your experience like working on Channel Zero: No End House? It was wonderful. I've always been a big fan of stuff like Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, so a show like that has always been something I've wanted to work on. I knew Nick Antosca from a short film we did together called The Girlfriend Game, based on a short story of his. The first time I read his stuff I was blown away by it. It was so unsettling, but specific and engrossing and dreadful. I loved it. We really enjoyed working together then so to get to do it on a larger scale was really special. I also think Steven Piet and Erik Crary are mad geniuses. Being in the trenches with those dudes was so fun and the most creatively satisfying experience I've had, because we all work pretty similarly. On top of it Amy Forsyth, Aisha Dee and John Carroll Lynch were dynamite scene partners.
How would you describe yourself in one word? Inside-out.
If you weren’t acting, what do you think you’d be doing right now? I think I would make a serious effort to direct, but that feels like a lame answer so I'll say...a house painter. I find painting walls soothing.
Do you have any hobbies other than acting and writing? I love football. I'm a lifelong Eagles fan and got to go to the Super Bowl this year to watch them win. It was a top five moment in my life. Go birds. GOAT tastes good.
Who’s your favorite character you’ve portrayed? I did a play called The Pillowman, and the main character is named Katurian Katurian Katurian. If you've never heard of it I strongly recommend reading it. It is my favorite play and I still think my favorite part I've ever played. Katurian and Manson.
Are there any upcoming projects you can share with us? Nothing I can talk about without being fired, so keep an eye out.