BH Interview: 'The Wire' Actor Chris Ashworth Rallies Conservatives to Culture War Battle Front
Chris Ashworth is a whiz at accents. The VA-born actor fooled the producers of the HBO series The Wire into thinking he was Ukrainian to land the role of Sergei "Serge" Malatov in the critically hailed series.
These days, he's channeling the voice of the late Andrew Breitbart, who famously said culture was upstream from politics.
“It's a culture war,” the unabashedly conservative and God-fearing actor tells Big Hollywood about the current state of our union. “If you wanna change the country you have to change the arts.”
To that end, Ashworth is prepping an action-soaked script about sex trafficking he describes as a cross between The Bourne Identity and Taken. Technical consultants for his script include Craig "Sawman" Sawyer, a former Navy SEAL and DEVGRU member, as well as other former operators and government types.
“They'll never think a liberal wrote this script,” he says.
Ashworth isn't shy about telling people what he thinks, nor will he bow to Hollywood's entrenched liberal mindset. The actor recalls shooting Terminator Salvation and almost coming to blows with a fellow actor during a heated political discussion.
“This guy just crossed the line,” he recalls of a conversation which took place around the time of President Barack Obama's 2008 election victory.
Ashworth, who practices mixed martial arts, would much rather discuss politics politely than resort to violence. Some of his peers simply aren't interested in a healthy debate.
“They just want to bow to Obama, and they can't have an intellectual conversation,” he says.
Many conservative rallied behind The Wire not just for its artistic excellence but for how it portrayed the failure of the Democrat Machine at play in big city politics. Ashworth says show creator David Simon may not have intentionally set out to tell those kinds of stories, but it's hard to imagine a person of his intellect and storytelling gifts not seeing that in the finished product.
The Wire struggled to land big ratings during its five-season run on HBO, but Ashworth says he was constantly reminded of how many people connected to the series all the same.
“Everywhere I went, people recognized me. Even on other jobs, for example working on shows like Justified and Without a Trace and even the film Terminator Salvation, I can specifically remember leads and creative types telling me The Wire was the greatest show ever,” he says. “We, as cast members, knew we were part of something special. We never doubted that and definitely didn't depend on the awards committees to validate our work. Most of that is political or biased anyway.”
Ashworth isn't optimistic about any Wire reunions or feature film projects given how some characters never made it to the final episode. He'd rather look ahead to new projects, both ones he'll help produce and existing features.
He's as passionate about acting as he is concerning the day's headlines.
The actor grew up in a Little House on the Prairie-style setting in Bedford, VA where he didn't have the luxury of neighborhood kids living next door. Surrounded by nothing but a country landscape, he spent hours mimicking voices and accents he heard on television. He soon realized he could do something most kids couldn't.
He considered becoming a pastor, and his mother predicted he would be the next Billy Graham, but young Ashworth eventually settled on acting. Some modeling doors opened up for him first, and they gave him a chance to segue into acting assignments.
A stint as an extra on the film The Replacements starring Keanu Reeves introduced him to a casting director who, years later, contacted him about a possible stint on an HBO series needing someone to play a fiery Russian.
The casting director suggested Ashworth tell the producers of The Wire he was from the Ukraine, a lie which made the actor uncomfortable. The director gently assured him lying was part of his job description, and the rest is cable TV history.
The actor isn't willing to wait for great roles to fall in his lap. He's busy writing projects for himself, and he hopes his fellow conservatives in Hollywood are doing the same. He's sick of seeing the industry depict conservatives in an ugly fashion, and he wishes more GOP benefactors reconsidered where they send their checks.
"The people that give and give and give to foundations. They need to put money towards films that will cause people to say, 'hey, I never thought about that,'" he says about inserting conservative principles into tomorrow's TV shows and movies. "That's where you change hearts and minds. We're living in a drive-through mentality. You're not gonna be changed by commercials."
Hollywood is pushing an agenda, he says, and it's time conservatives pushed back.
"I was put here to fight back," he says. "There's a line in the sand ... and we need a wake up call. Film and television is the way it can be done."
Note: Please follow Chris Ashworth on Twitter at @TheRealAshworth - he can also be found on Facebook