SAG actor moves from projects to Hollywood
YOUNGSTOWN — Otis Winston never thought he would make anything of himself after growing up in the Westlake housing projects in Youngstown.
Boy, was he wrong.
Winston, 32, is now a Screen Actors Guild actor with more than 30 TV and film credits for acting, directing, writing and stunt work he’s accumulated in a 13-year career in the industry.
“It never gets old,” Winston said about seeing himself on film. “Every time, I’m always humbled and gracious for where I am and where I’m going. I see myself doing this until the day I die.”
With a heavy right cross, Winston played boxer Lennox Lewis knocking out Mike Tyson late in the eighth round of their 2002 fight as dramatized in the Hulu TV series, “Mike.”
In “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, following a fight with the shape-shifting extraterrestrial Venom, watches as Winston’s character, credited as “street man” is used as a host by the alien being.
“There are no small roles, just ones that lead to the next one,” Winston said.
Winston has been staying busy after the release of his latest movie, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” in which he plays SWAT leader Tony Walker. He helps people to safety as Zachary Levi’s Shazam battles the daughters of Atlas.
Growing up in Youngstown, Winston suffered from a speech impediment that left him unable to talk properly until age 11. Early on, he found solace in film.
“I would spend countless hours in my closet, you know watching a little TV and every time a show would come on, I would just watch it and I was able to escape,” Winston said. “Once a week, I was Theo Huxtable. I wasn’t in the projects, and I was able to experience being in a functioning family.”
Reality was far different.
“My dad was a street guy who went to prison when I was 11 and came back when I was 19. So I decided to go a different route,” Winston said.
At 11, his mother moved the family to the industrial town of Toronto in Jefferson County, where Winston further developed an interest in sports.
“If anything was going to get me out of the projects and poverty, I thought it would be basketball or track and field,” Winston said. “I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan. I just knew sports were my way because that’s all I was told. That’s all I saw. I saw other athletes. It was either sports or the streets.”
Winston found success in both interests. He attended The Ohio State University where he was a dual athlete. The 6-foot-5-inch athlete’s sporting pedigree earned him four Big Ten championships, two first team All-Americans and he once held the record for the high jump.
Later, his sporting career took him to Russia to play basketball, where Winston spent time developing his first screenplay for the short film “Split Decision.” Its completion reignited a creative streak in Winston that led him to take the leap into the entertainment industry.
“I walked away and never looked back. And that’s when the doors for writing opened for me,” Winston said.
A friend with industry connections invited him to an event in Los Angeles where, by fate, Winston was walking into the building where he ran into a director who confused him for a guest actor who never showed up for their part. Winston was tasked with performing a scene from the Tom Cruise movie, “Jerry Maguire.” For the auditon, Winston recited the famous, “Show me the money” scene between Cruise, playing a sports agent trying to convince his client, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., to keep him around.
As he stepped out of the courtroom after finalizing his divorce, a phone call gave Winston the oppurtunity he got by chance just months prior.
“I got the call telling me I landed my first speaking role. The role that I got booked for was on a TV show called ‘The Game.’ That was my first speaking role being inside the show’s trailer and everything,” Winston said.
“I just got done filming a movie in Atlanta with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, J.K. Simmons, Chris Evans, Lucy Liu, and it was such a blessing to work on that film,” Winston said. “I was filming for eight weeks and when I think about it, now I’m home. I feel like a fish out of water when I’m not on set.
“What I love the most is that I can show these kids from Youngstown or Toronto that you can make it, and here I am born in Northside Hospital, grew up in Westlake projects, now I’m watching myself on TV. It shows dreams come true when you pursue them,” Winston said.
When asked what it takes to be in the industy, his answer is toughness.
“This industry is not for the faint of heart,” Winston said. “You will hear ‘no’ way more than ‘yes.’ I have had so many of my scenes hit the cutting room floor.”
As Winston continues his career, he has a goal to work in at least three projects every year. Helping him acheive that goal will be his representation from BURST Agency, which Winston recently just signed on with to act as his manager and agent.
He’ll be starting work soon on an untitled Disney movie. He also will appear in “The Out-Laws,” a crime comedy slated for release on Netflix this year.
“Be on the lookout, this year is the year to watch for me,” Winston said.
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