HITTING HIS STRIDE. Consummate actor Johnny Whitworth is still young, but a veteran of the show-business industry. However, he may well have ended up as a psychotherapist if not for his acting talent. By Refael Koetin and Malcolm Exeter.
Shirt by American Apparel, Johnny’s own trousers, shoes and jewelry
Famed for his roles in last year’s hit movie Limitless alongside Bradley Cooper, 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and as the detective Jake Berkeley on CSI: Miami, the highly skilled actor Johnny Whitworth is really hitting his stride. He can currently be seen in a major role in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance alongside Nicolas Cage.
But Whitworth is more than the sum of his acting roles, he’s a fashionable, intelligent guy with a focus on the big picture. Here, he gives DA MAN some exclusive insights into what makes him tick while modeling high-fashion attire with aplomb.
DA MAN: We’ve read that you put your acting career on hold for some time at one point in your career. Why was that?
Johnny Whitworth: Because I wasn’t having fun. At the beginning of my career I hadn’t figured things out yet. I was too sensitive, and took my work too seriously, and didn’t know how to be true to myself and the craft while maneuvering in this business. I think I’ve gotten better at it.
DA MAN: What were you doing in the interim, and what made you decide to make a comeback?
Johnny Whitworth: I wouldn’t exactly call it a comeback, but why I decided to go back to work, at the time that you’re referring to, was the chance to work with Francis Ford Coppola. If you do what I do and you have a chance to work with somebody like him, it’s a no brainer. Working with directors like him make my job so much easier because at the end of the day it’s about trust.
DA MAN: What directors do you consider ‘no brainers’ in terms of saying yes to working with them?
Johnny Whitworth: Gosh, I don’t know there are so many, but off the top of my head, David Fincher, the Coen brothers, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, James Mangold, Tarantino, Eastwood and Scorsese, of course. And Pedro Almodóvar, if he ever made an English-speaking film, I would love that.
DA MAN: What have you had to say ‘no’ to in order to make it as far as you have?
Johnny Whitworth: I don’t know. I pretty much say no to everything. I tend to only meet on projects I actually want to do. It doesn’t mean that I get all the roles that I want, but at least then I can commit to the process of preparing. I can’t say this for all situations, but I don’t like preparing for something that I don’t want or feel that I’m not right for. I just challenge myself when I go into a room. It doesn’t matter whether someone likes me or not. You can’t take this stuff personally.
DA MAN: Your first acting project was on Party of Five as a guest star. What can you tell us about that part and how do you think you’ve grown as an actor since that debut?
Johnny Whitworth: I actually tested for the Bailey role, played by Scott Wolf, but it would have been a totally different direction than what was written. I guess that the complicated aspect of P.K. [his character P.K. Strickler] was more appropriate for me. And as far as my growth as an actor, I’ve learned to trust myself and not to overcomplicate things.
DA MAN: What made you decide (and when was it) to become an actor?
Johnny Whitworth: I have wanted to be an actor since I was six years old. I’m not sure what made me decide, I just knew. I can tell you when I saw Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop that I wanted to be a movie star. But it was when I watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with my dad and saw Eli Wallach in the bath scene (I felt how dirty he was and how good that bath was gonna be) that I knew that I wanted to be an ‘actor.’
DA MAN: When you started acting, how did your family and friends react?
Johnny Whitworth: In their own way, my parents were very supportive. And my little brother has always had my back. I couldn’t have achieved anything without them.
DA MAN: What do you think you’d be doing career-wise now if you did not pursue your acting career?
Johnny Whitworth: I would have been a psychotherapist. I’m very interested in why and how we, as human beings, do things.
DA MAN: You played Detective Jake Berkeley on CSI: Miami, a character that has been hugely popular among fans of the series. How much do you think you connected to the role, and would you say that it was a breakout of sorts?
Johnny Whitworth: I was unaware he was hugely popular! Thanks! Well Jake would often be misunderstood, and I can relate to that. I guess the role can be considered a ‘breakout’ of sorts because that show has a worldwide audience.
DA MAN: You also co-starred in Limitless last year. What can you tell us about that experience?
Johnny Whitworth: Oh, speaking of great directors, Neil Burger is another one. I really enjoyed working with him. I like his movies and I would love to work with him again.
DA MAN: Limitless, in our estimation, was one of the sleeper hits of the year and it showed in the box office numbers. Does such success of a film or TV show give you an extra sense of accomplishment; or are you equally proud of well-played roles in projects that didn’t get as much at the box office?
Johnny Whitworth: Well sure, the more the merrier. I really appreciate people coming out and seeing movies I’m in, but, I have been equally proud of movies that no one’s seen.
DA MAN: How do you measure ‘more successful’… is it more fans, more headlines, more social networking followers, more money, more respect from peers, family, friends?
Johnny Whitworth: More choices.
DA MAN: Do you aspire to be more successful than you currently are, or are you at just the right place, just where you want to be in an ideal comfort zone?
Johnny Whitworth: Sure, I want to be more successful so that I have more choices.
DA MAN: Many of our readers are looking forward to seeing you play in the upcoming Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Reunited with directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, did you have to go through an audition again or did they just handpick you for the part?
Johnny Whitworth: Yeah, Ghost Rider is going to be badass, a lot of fun! I really like working with those guys. They’re really frenetic filmmakers and I had a great time playing Carrigan/Blackout. And yes, they handpicked me but there was still a process involved.
DA MAN: Had you read the graphic novel series before signing up for the role of Carrigan/Blackout?
Johnny Whitworth: No, my inspiration for the character came from the script mostly. I did read a few comics, but Mark and Brian’s idea of Blackout was more fun.
DA MAN: Can you tell us what other projects you are working on at the moment?
Johnny Whitworth: I have a few things in the works, but nothing concrete I can comment on right now.
DA MAN: You’ve come far in the showbiz industry, with a healthy portfolio. From your experience, what makes a good movie?
Johnny Whitworth: Well, it’s up to the ‘Movie Gods,’ as they say. There are a lot of aspects that go into making a good film, with luck being one of them. But it definitely helps to have a good director, good actors and a good script.
DA MAN: What are the things you consider before you agree to an audition? Is it your role? Is it the plot? The director? Producer? Fellow actors?
Johnny Whitworth: Every situation is different, but I definitely consider all of the above.
DA MAN: Where do you see yourself and your acting/showbiz career five years from now?
Johnny Whitworth: Well, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey … but I can tell you that I’m excited about the future.
DA MAN: You’ve worked with a lot of A-Listers from Christian Bale to Russell Crowe, what did you learn from them? Or was it you teaching them a few tricks of the trade?
Johnny Whitworth: Well, I learn something on every set. But, indeed, everyone you listed off here are top-notch professionals and excellent craftsmen, and have influenced me with both their work on the set and in their films.
DA MAN: Is there anyone’s life you would love to play in a biopic? Why?
Johnny Whitworth: Charles Manson, because the psychology of that man has always intrigued me.
DA MAN: Are there any aspects of friends, relatives, acquaintances that you emulate/borrow for different characters that you have to play?
Johnny Whitworth: Sure, anything I see can inspire ideas… all the nouns—people, places, things and ideas.
DA MAN: The quality you most admire in a man or woman?
Johnny Whitworth: The quality I most admire in a person is honesty. Both with oneself and with those around them
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Joshua Seth
Grooming: Nikki Providence
Creative director: Jennifer de Klaver
Associate editors: Eric Silverberg, Yann Bean, Thomas Miller, Vanessa Miller
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