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Native Detroit Actor Jerry Ford takes on Hollywood

Look for the TV and stage star in upcoming roles on Orange is the New Black, Royal Pains and more

Actor Jerry Ford is about to have a huge run in Hollywood.

This summer, he has guest roles on Netflix's Orange is the New Black and USA Network's Royal Pains. His Hope: One Man, One Show production, portraying his struggles growing up on Detroit's east side, is receiving rave reviews. And he just wrapped filming an MTV pilot playing a self-absorbed womanizer.

Oh, and did we mention he is a multiple Junior Olympic gold medal martial artist and occasional action stuntman? But before you go calling him "Bruce Leroy"—"I got that all the time growing up," he says—Ford, 25, says he's more focused on honing his acting craft than his punches. After all, besides his impressive Hollywood resume, he's got theater cred after performing in Hamlet and Othello in New York.

During Ford's recent hometown visit, we caught up with the actor to talk what it's like trying to break through into Tinseltown.

You started martial arts at 3 years old and even got some gold in the Junior Olympics, but at what age did you get the acting bug?

I've been acting since I was about 6 years old. Either we didn't have electricity at the time or TV just wasn't working, and I basically was the television for my family. I would memorize movies and (imitate) every single character and perform it for my family. That is when I knew I was meant to be an actor.

What actors do you idolize?

Will Smith and Denzel (Washington) are definitely my top two. Other than that, Leonardo DiCaprio is really good. I look up to his work.

Which city is tougher, Hollywood or Detroit?

Definitely Detroit, without a doubt! Any time I go into an audition, I literally say to myself: "OK, you come from Detroit city. You were raised on the east side of Detroit and went through all these struggles. How dare you be nervous walking into an audition."

A lot of 'oh-he-is-from-Detroit' looks at auditions?

When I was over in London, we had the opportunity to audition for Hamlet on the Shakespeare's Globe (theater) stage. And I auditioned for the role of King Claudius and I got it. And for the most part, people were like, "Wait, there is no way this kid from Detroit can play King Claudius on the Shakespeare's Globe stage."
At that time, I had a choice. I can give up and prove them right, which is so easy. But I made it my business to work 10 times harder and start memorizing five months before the play went up. When that play went up, I murdered it. Besides that, it's every time I walk on set. I've got to work 10 times better just to let people know that people from Detroit can do it.

Why not just kick your way into Hollywood and be an action star?

It's funny because now, besides my play, people really don't get a chance to see me do martial arts. I've only done one project where I've used my martial arts and gymnastics. And it was a play at La MaMa (Experimental Theatre in New York) called She-Wolf.

What does it for you with acting?

Living in the moment. And how you can bring yourself to a piece or a character and literally live in the moment and just see how each moment (in the scene) takes you to the next.

Since you don't get to use your martial arts skills, if you could fight one actor, who would it be?

Jet Li or Scott Adkins.

They are two prominent martial arts stars. That seems fair.

And they are both really good.

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