Chris Ashworth is best known for his role as Sergei Malatov in the hit series The Wire. Although he enjoys a successful Hollywood career, he has not forgotten his humble Virginia roots where he learned to hold the military and its members in high regard; few have a more patriotic spirit than Ashworth.
You have had quite a relationship with the military over the years, what got you initially involved in troop causes?
My father has always held the military and the flag in such high regard. I have to thank him for helping me understand how truly blessed we are as a nation and how many people have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy today. Ever since I was old enough to know about the military, I've always felt in debt to them, like they could never be thanked enough, or honored enough. This still holds true. As a kid, it was easily understood. I've lost family and friends in the war. For many, the battle continues long after they leave it physically. We owe it to them to offer them every type of help needed when they return.
What is one of your most memorable moments with a soldier?
I have several memorable moments, some were at a charity event in Pasadena, for wounded veterans with some of the veterans turning out to be big fans of The Wire. The biggest moments though are the times spent hanging out and talking with soldiers. It's always a blessing to get to spend time with them and hear what they have to say.
Chris takes a call during Season 2 of The Wire, arguably the greatest show ever about telephones.
Many of your fans know you from The Wire. How did you handle sudden fame?
It was interesting to say the least. Once you're in the public eye, you're always in the public eye. I welcomed it and it's truly been a blessing. I've been able to have many great conversations with fans of the show and I'm always thankful for that. I want to use the opportunity to inspire people; to make them smile. I just enjoy meeting people in general. However, most people thought and many still do think I'm Russian. It's kind of funny once they hear my southern accent. HBO believed I was Russian for quite a while. To wrap that question up, I have to say that to whom much is given, much is required. The more that God blesses us, the more we should bless others.
A lot of people think that being famous is the best thing in life but what are some of the pitfalls you have experienced?
That's funny, but true. I don't have any pitfall stories, funny maybe, but not bad. Fame is definitely not the best thing in life. Friends and family are. A reality show can make you famous, but what are you actually giving to society? What will you do with that opportunity? It can be a blessing or a burden. Fame and fortune all go away and I heard a pastor say one time, "You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse". True. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" Albert Einstein said "Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value." If anyone steps into the public eye, he or she is opening himself or herself up for criticism. My Dad has told me "You can't please everyone" and this is so true. No matter what podium, job, or talent places you in the public eye, there will be people for you and there will be people against you. We're all just people with different gifts, opportunities, and talents. The more "famous" someone is, the more that person may have to question the authenticity of the people who approach him or her. Do they want something or are they coming from an angle? We all need help. We all need things in life. I'm told often that I'm too open and I should be more guarded. The way I look at it is this. I'm not guaranteed tomorrow and I want to make a difference while I'm here.
Did you ever want to serve in the military? If so, what branch and why?
There was a long period which I wondered about joining the Navy and trying to become a SEAL. I really loved the idea of such a capable brotherhood. I had no false ideas about how tough it would be. If I were to try that path, it would easily be the hardest thing I ever faced. I never had a full peace about it, but knew it was in my mind for a reason. I address that more below.
What is the best advice a soldier has given you?
The best advice came from several soldiers and operators. Even after The Wire, I really struggled with whether or not to join up and serve. I felt like I wasn't doing enough and I grew tired of seeing people or happenings in Hollywood that scream "selfishness". In the same sentence, I need to say there are many amazing people and foundations in this business. When I would have conversations with these different soldiers and operators, it basically came back to "Go make a difference in Hollywood." This makes me think of a trip that several of us involved in the business, made to Coronado, CA, to spend time with the SEALs. I remember leaving the room after hearing some of these amazing men speak. As I was walking out, this one Navy SEAL tapped me on the back and I turned around. He said, "Don't want to bother you. Just wanted to say I'm a huge fan." I'm an emotional guy and I think I got misty-eyed when he said that. The mere thought of him saying that after all those guys put on the line. My reply was "Brother you'll do more in one day than I'll ever do in Hollywood." His reply was "I didn't think anyone in Hollywood gave a #$%& about us." I shook his hand and gave him a hug as we talked a bit more.
His words resonated with me because often times, I would read audition sides or scripts and the soldier was involved in something corrupt or ridiculous. This would aggravate me so much. I actually remember auditioning for a blockbuster which I won't name and telling the casting director that something was, in nicer words "far from the truth." Of course I got on the soap box about wanting to read something honoring the military for once, something patriotic. The casting director was sweet and understood. She and I already knew each other. Here I am on the soapbox again, but... either way, the point is I want to see projects which honor our military, honor our country, and show Hollywood that America longs for this. On a side note, I'm excited to see Lone Survivor by the super talented Peter Berg. Wish I would've had an audition for that one. Ha, okay... next question.
You're currently single and so are a lot of troops. What dating tips do you have for men and women in uniform?
Yep, currently single. I love talking about the subject of dating. It's mainly because my old ways and new ways are dramatically different, but I'll get into that in a moment. I imagine it's tough on men and women in uniform, especially if there are distances between significant others and limited times of talking to and seeing each other. Relationships definitely require a commitment and we're living in a world where commitment is going extinct, i.e. "Let's move in together instead of getting married". That's the biggest way to end up not married. It's settling without truly settling. If someone wants to be with you, he or she will be with you - fully. Ladies - know your worth. Don't sell out. The male population needs more GENTLEMEN and the female population needs more LADIES. Want that amazing person? BECOME that amazing person. My personal opinion is though, whether in the military or not, I want Christ in the relationship. I mentioned "commitment" above. It boils down to what or who we are committed to. I know we all have different beliefs, but this is mine. When two people are putting Christ first, committing their lives to Him, everything else will fall into line. They're no longer putting themselves first. It becomes "selfless" instead of "selfish". We're all imperfect people living in an imperfect world. We all have issues, experiences, wins and losses. We're all human. If you know who you are in the eyes of God and you have the security, peace, and love that ONLY He can give you, you can trust Him to lead the way. We can't look to another person to complete us, as much as we may want to. That's something only the Lord can do.
I've dated a lot in the past and honestly, I try not to worry over it like I used to. When I would get lonely, I used to settle for "Mrs. Right Now" instead of "Mrs. Right", but I wasn't doing her or myself a favor. It would often lead to numbness or emptiness. I was trying to fill a void which could only be filled by God. The phrase "Don't give up what you want most for what you want now" comes into mind. I definitely long for the day that I'm with the woman I'm meant to be with. She'll be a blessing to me and make me a better man for sure. I just hope she has patience. I'm trying to let God open and close the doors. He's a much better match-maker than I am.
Chris & Craig Sawyer
What are the projects you are presently working on?
I have several things going on at the moment, but the dearest and most important project to me is my screenplay A Capable Man, about a Navy SEAL. I started working on this idea over ten years ago and put it to the side more often than not. However, I finished it a couple years ago and it's been going through constant revisions ever since, getting tighter and tighter. I've been blessed to have a close friend by the name of Craig 'Sawman' Sawyer (www.TacticalInsider.com), who served first in the Marines, then as a SEAL, eventually becoming a part of DEVGRU. Craig is the main consultant on the project and will be the tech advisor when this project is green lit. A Capable Man is in several sets of hands right now. Whether or not it's done by a studio or independently financed, time will tell, but God-willing, it will be done. I look forward to sharing this story with the world.
Are you watching or reading anything right now that is worth recommending?
The three books that I'm reading at the moment are How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie; Nathan Bedford Forrest - A Biography by Jack Hurst; and Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL's Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War written and given to me by my friend and former Navy SEAL Robert DuBois.
Any final words to the troops?
Thank you for your service. I truly mean it. Thank you for laying it all on the line. Thank you for being the lock on the door that keeps us safe. The land of the free because of the brave. May God protect and bless all of you!