Victoria Platt and Terrell Tilford
Husband & Wife Acting Team
By Shirley Wright
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to the husband and wife acting team of Victoria Platt and Terrell Tilford, both hard working actors starring in different TV series. Clearly they are a united, strong couple with definite views about the world of acting and art. It was a pleasure to meet them both.
It’s not often that I get to talk to an acting husband and wife team.
Victoria: [Laugh] We don’t talk to each other that often either. [Laugh]
Which I guess could bring me to my first question, how do you balance your life and work? Because both of you are on series shooting in different cities. Do you ever see each other?
Victoria: Well, yeah. Certainly, Terrell works in Atlanta a lot. I work in New Orleans a lot. So we’ve made it work. He flies to me sometimes. I fly to him sometimes. It’s difficult but we make it work.
Terrell: It’s a little dipping here and there, but we make it happen.
Absence can make the heart grow fonder, right?
Terrell: That’s right. We’ve been together 12 ½ years now, so there have been spurts of time where we’ve had to do this before when I was in New York and she was in Chicago and L.A. and San Diego and other places. So we’re kind of a little bit used to it, but it’s always nice to be home here in L.A., back in our home.
I want to talk about your current TV series. Let’s start with you Victoria. Star-Crossed, it premiered last month on the CW to great reviews. Tell me about your character, Gloria.
Victoria: Sure. It’s been really great. I’m a sci-fi fan, so this is right up my alley. The show is essentially about an alien ship that crash lands on earth and all of the aliens are rounded up and put in what would be considered modern day internment camps. Ten years after that, the government creates this integration program and I play Gloria Garcia, the government agent, that is in charge of the integration of the program. I work closely with the aliens.
Are you considered a good guy or a bad guy on the show?
Victoria: I can’t say yet and actually I've gotten a lot of people wondering. They’re saying, “Are you bad? Are you the villain?” I love my character. I think she has a good heart and she has an honorable reason for why she’s doing what she’s doing. Other people may see it as something else though. [Laugh]
Terrell: Her character is described a bit as a space-age Olivia Pope, so she’s wielding a big sword there.
That is a big sword. So you’re a fixer?
Victoria: I’m a little bit of a fixer, yeah. I would say that. Certainly a mediator. I mediate.
Well, that does sound like a fun character. Is the show set far into the future?
Victoria: No, only about ten years.
Was it hard getting the role? Tell me about the audition process?
Victoria: It was kind of interesting. This is one of the roles that I had to put myself on tape for. So, Terrell filmed me on tape. He read the other lines with me and we sent it in and I booked it off the tape, which is rare and very desirable. [Laugh] I prefer it that way.
Wow. That is unusual. You’re shooting in New Orleans, correct?
Victoria: Yeah, we shoot right in New Orleans. I mean, the actual sound stage is in Harahan, which is like ten minutes outside New Orleans, but we do a lot of location stuff and that’s all shot in New Orleans.
The costumes must be fun. Are you being dressed in pseudo-regular clothes or do you have some weird uniforms?
Victoria: Not really. Certainly they make the SEU guards, who are the guards that guard the aliens - they make them look a lot more futuristic. I think Caroline (Caroline Marx – Costume Designer) did a really great job of marrying fashion now, to what fashion could be ten years from now. So it’s not too crazy. I love the way my character’s dressed. It is very Olivia Pope. I’m in a lot of light colors and very tailored clothing.
Very stylized then?
Victoria: Yeah, very elegant, not very revealing; not sexy at all. [Laugh] But very elegant and tailored.
So tell me more about the premise of the show?
Victoria: Essentially what happens is an alien student and a human student have a romance. So it’s very relevant in terms of the times because a lot of it is about tolerance and discrimination and difference and so the social commentary on it, I think, is very relevant and current. It doesn’t jam it down your throat or anything but it’s a very obvious point of the story, which I think speaks a lot to what we’re experiencing now in the country.
Do the aliens look like humans or do they have different characteristics?
Victoria: It’s the CW, so you know they’re definitely humanoid and they’re all gorgeous. [Laugh] So there is something that differentiates them from us and it’s that they have these markings that we would look at and think they’re tattoos. They have these individual markings. They’re almost like birthmarks in a way. That’s the only thing that really separates them from us in terms of look. We find out some other things about them later on, differences in terms of anatomy. We found out in the pilot episode that they have two hearts and there are other things that’ll come out in the future that I won’t reveal now. I’ll say that you have to watch to see, but it’s kind of interesting.
Ok, Terrell, your turn. You’re on Single Ladies. Tell me about your character, Sean. It's certainly a lot different from Victoria’s.
Terrell: Compared to what they’re doing on Star-Crossed, you just made me feel completely inadequate, Shirley. I don’t do shit. No, I’m just joking with you. [Laugh]. I play Sean, a very high-powered lawyer on the show who wears his emotions sort of in his heart and on his sleeve at the same time. He’s lost a woman that he was very much in love with. He lost her to another guy because of his own previous mistakes and he’s come back to Atlanta in the past couple years to try and win her back. Since that time, we’ve moved forward a couple of years and Sean, I wouldn’t say, he certainly hasn’t gotten over his love of Keisha, however, his main goal, if you will, at this point is to expose the wickedness of my nemesis, Malcom, played by DB Woodside, who is now with Keisha. So I’m back to wreak a little havoc on the show.
That sounds like a killer role.
Terrell: Yeah, it’s fun. A lot of people sort of describe it as the urban Sex & the City, if you will. The people who watch the show, the women are definitely in many respects tuning in for the fashion and hairstyles and things like that for the women.
Victoria: And the cute guys.
Terrell: They’ve put on a couple of nice suits here and there for the guys, especially this year in particular. They’ve managed to give us a lot more to do and have a little bit more say-so and a nice interaction between the fellas as well. So it’s a show that’s centered around the women, as you know, however, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in there. So that’s the fun of actually doing the show.
I think that’s a very good description, an urban Sex & the City. So, tell me how you both met. It was on the Guiding Light, right?
Terrell: We did, yeah. I had been there for maybe about six weeks, two months, right out of grad school, playing this detective on the show and Vic came in to replace a character that was on there and I essentially immediately fell in love with her right then but, unbeknownst to me until about an hour later and then for a year after that, she had absolutely no interest in me.
So it was not love at first sight, Victoria?
Victoria: No, I was in a relationship at the time and I had a strict rule about dating people I worked with and here’s this really good looking soap actor and I’m thinking, “Of course he thinks that I want to have a relationship with him. It’s not going to happen.” [Laugh] So I wouldn’t say I played hard to get. I wanted to keep work separate from my personal life.
Terrell: She absolutely did not play hard to get. It was just basically, “No.” [Laughter]
So how long did it take for you to wear her down?
Terrell: Probably about a year and a half or so, but the great thing during that time, in all honesty, the wonderful thing about it, one, is we were playing lovers on the show, which was stressful for me and probably just fine for her. However, in between shooting and in between rehearsals, we’d get off early or something like that, we’d go grab lunch or something like that and because of where our proximity was, we both lived pretty far outside of Manhattan at the time, I think we caught a movie once or twice or something like that. It was very much on the up and up. I was very enamored with her, but at some point I had to relax and chill and try to play it cool as we went out to lunch and hung out a bit.
Victoria: We became friends. Once I told him it wasn’t going to happen, he was very respectful. He really was. He was very respectful.
Terrell: Then finally I think at just one point, she was like, “Okay, let me go ahead and give this guy a break. I’m starting to feel sorry for him.” Her mom actually likes me. So I was working the family angle a bit and I think her mother was in on it as well. So we sort of tricked her into it all.
Victoria: My mother and one of my best friends were totally in cahoots with him and they wore me down. It was a lot of pressure. Nobody could stand that kind of pressure.
Did you break your rule and did you start dating when you were working together?
Victoria: Yeah, I broke my rule, I did.
And he was worth it.
Victoria: Totally, are you kidding? We’re 12 ½ years in, but we kept it a secret for a really long time.
Terrell: Yeah and, in a sense, at the time when we first started dating, we weren’t actually working together. We were on hiatus for about six weeks. So she had been living in L.A. when she booked the job, so she came back out to L.A. and I came out here to visit my family because this is where I’m originally from. So we had a chance to like…we started hiking and I was taking her on hikes with some of my friends and we were all just hanging out a bit. I think things opened up that, look, I think this could be a very good and cool thing. I think the first thing she did with my family is we all went to Cirque de Soleil together.
Victoria: Yeah, we did.
When you finally confessed at work, was everybody okay? Was it cool then actually working together and being together?
Victoria: Yeah, it was totally fine. I actually remember the event. There was some event, was it a Christmas party?
Terrell: A birthday party for one of the producers.
Victoria: Okay, it was something that we showed up at together and we had never done that before. We showed up and, of course, all the photographers were like, “Wait a minute, did you guys show up together?” Everyone always wants people who work together to be in a relationship and they would constantly ask us before that and we were always like, “No, no, no.” That night we showed up together, we did the red carpet together, and everybody was like, “Are you guys together?” and we were like, “Yes, we’re together” and then it was like in all the magazines and it was our coming out party. [Laugh]
That’s really cool.
Victoria: Yeah, and it was easy to work together after that. Nothing really changed very much. Terrell is easy to work with. His work ethic is something I've always admired and hopefully he feels the same way about me. We had a really good time working together, so that didn’t change anything.
So when did you both get the acting bug? Was it right out of school?
Victoria: My mom was a singer when she was young and when I was born, she had stopped singing, but she would coach kids in the neighborhood and one of them was a friend of mine and she had an audition for Annie, the two year national tour, and I went with her for moral support and we were all sitting up in the front and it was this huge theater. I don’t know if they even have these any more, but they used to be called cattle calls, where they would put an ad out in like the newspaper and at the time it was The Daily News. They put an ad in The Daily News that said, “Any girl who can sing between the ages of 2 and 12, come down” and you get a number and then they put you all in this huge Broadway theater and then they call you up in rows of like 100 and they point to you and you sing.
I really didn’t want to be an actor. I hadn’t even thought about it really. I really wanted to be, at the time, it was called a cardiovascular surgeon. Now it’s thoracic, but I really wanted to be a surgeon, but I was sitting up there with my friend and they herd all of us onto the stage. I was like, “I’m not here to audition.” He was like “Sing” and I sang and my voice filled up the theater and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is the most amazing experience I've ever had in life.” [Laugh] It was scary but exhilarating at the same time and that was it for me. That was when I was about six or seven.
Wow! At age 6 you knew you wanted to be a cardiovascular surgeon?
Victoria: I did and you know what was really strange about that?
Terrell: She still wants to be a surgeon. She still tries to operate on me any chance she can get. Be careful.
Victoria: Anytime he has a splinter or something, I’m like, “Sit right there. I’m going to get the scissors, a scalpel, and some alcohol.” [Laugh] Occasionally he actually lets me do it. Yeah, my parents actually said it was kind of fascinating that I wanted to do that, but I’m sure my father put it in my head. My father really wanted me to be a doctor.
Was he a doctor?
Victoria: He wasn’t. He was a professor. He was the principal of a school but I think he really wanted to be a doctor but he came from meager means and didn’t have the money to go to med school and so he figured I would go ahead and handle that part of his dream. I sort of did. I played Dr. Peg on The Gates. [Laugh]
That’s true. Terrell, when did you get the acting bug?
Terrell: I still haven’t gotten it. I’m still trying to get bit. No, I’m teasing. [Laugh] Growing up, I was sort of involved in community theater, doing church productions, things like that at the time, but I was really into sports. I played baseball for a number of years and I guess it was sort of through the exposure, my mother worked in a medical facility in Hollywood right on Hollywood Boulevard, so I’d go up and hang out with her after I got out of school and a lot of producers and people in the entertainment business used to come in all the time and they’d make little comments here or there and say, “Oh, your son should do this, your son should do that”, but my mother didn’t really have time to take me to those sort of things. So it was just a fleeting idea and I think also just having grown up in L.A., it wasn’t something surprisingly that was really on my mind.
So it wasn’t until, I mean, I tell people, I say one of my earliest remembrances is seeing a production of Romeo & Juliet at L.A. City College when I was a kid and I remember being quite taken aback with this production and the spectacle and the magic of it all, if you will. Of course, it’s not one of my favorite plays. However, it did leave an indelible impression as I went further in life. Even though in high school and all that I was still involved in theater, it wasn’t until I got to college at UC Berkeley that it was something that I knew I wanted to do. I went into Berkeley saying, “Oh, I want to be a computer engineer” and nobody told me that actually included being intelligent and math and science and things like that. So I was like, “Nah, I’m not going to do that anymore.” [Laugh] So after I took my first acting class at Berkeley, from that point on, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do, yeah.
That’s great. So outside of acting, what are your passions? You have a passion for art, don’t you?
Terrell: I do. I've been collecting art since I was 16 years old and working with artists as a curator and as a gallerist since, officially, probably 2002. So that’s something that I've been doing for a number of years. I don’t like to call it on the side and it’s not really a hobby. I've curated here and in New York and had threatened to curate in Atlanta last year but just got a little bit too busy with our schedule there, but I have a very deep passion for that and it’s certainly something I plan to continue with as well.
Any particular kind of art? I mean, contemporary art…?
Terrell: New young emerging artists that have something provocative to say. The original title of our company was Tilford Art Group and, at that time, it really stood for a certain cache of artists and a certain thematic work that many of the artists were doing at the time and then, just a few years ago, I decided that after our ten year anniversary of having done this, I said, you know what, it’s time to move in a different direction, to go out on a limb and find something that was more challenging not only for myself but for the artists as well and I wanted to do it in a very different way than we’d done it before in terms of having a gallery space, that sort of commitment. I’m really looking more for pop-ups now, which seem a lot more interesting to me at this time. So that’s really like the new quest with the new company, which is Tilford Redux.
My whole thought has always been, even when we launched the first company, was really to make art accessible to people who may feel threatened by it. I wanted to remove the white gloves thought behind it all, including the white walls. We never had white walls in the gallery. They were always colored. I always wanted to sort of break the barrier between what people sort of see as like, “I need to have money. I need to be wealthy” or something like that and it’s like, “No, you don’t. You just have to start with what you love, what you like.” I tell people, “Don’t buy a piece of art that’s going to match your couch because you’re going to have the piece of art probably for the rest of your life. You’re going to have that couch for maybe five to ten years and that’s it.”
So it’s all about engaging in a conversation within the community, saying “Let’s look at this. Let’s talk about this” and if you’re interested in buying something, my goal was to try and help them procure a piece of art because I didn’t get into the art world to make money. I got into it to help support people make a living in the same way that people have helped support me. I've had people come see our plays and productions and write letters into the networks when we’ve been on TV shows and things. So I was making a living as an actor and I believe visual artists should make a living at what they do as well. It’s a significant part of our cultural history, American and worldwide history as well. When we look back centuries before us, what has withstood the test of time?
The art, and books, things like that. Those are the things that have informed us of what happened before and it’s something that is a bit intimidating for me as we are into this digital age now, that we’re diving so far into that, we’ve become so entrenched in that, that we need to retain some of this material physical aspect of something because the huge difference between the past and moving towards the future is we do still have the books and the art and things like that. With this digital age, when somebody looks back, moving forward, when somebody looks back 100 years from now, those batteries are going to be worn down on those iPads, those iPhones aren’t going to power up, those computers may not have the same source to reboot. So how are we going to be able to retain this sort of cultural edification?
That’s very true. Hard to keep up with technology.
Terrell: Right. How many people now actually print out their photos? They live in a digital world. They live on their phones and computers and other devices. So we’ve got to print these things. We’ve got to make them accessible and that’s the same way I feel about the art. We need to have it out there. We need to make it accessible to everyone.
Have you ever wanted to paint yourself or do art in some form?
Terrell: I have painted over the years and, much to my wife’s chagrin, I have not painted more. Actually when we first met, I think that was one of the things that sort of ended up attracting her to me, is that I was painting. So when she finally came to my apartment and saw what I was spending some of my loose time doing, it was actually painting.
Victoria: I was like, he’s not just a pretty face. [Laugh]
Terrell: Right, but when I started the fine art company, I never wanted people to get the impression that I was doing it to sell my own art. So ever since our very first show that we did out of our home where I did sell and exhibit a few of my own pieces, I've made it a very clear distinction not to do so with our company because, again, that focus was on the visual artists who actually do it for their livelihood.
Right. It’s very hard to make a living at anything in the arts.
Terrell: Exactly and that was one of the things I tried to impress upon people that would come into our gallery. We even had a number of celebrities who became, what I call, repeat offenders, people who came back to the gallery several times to buy many pieces of art and the first thing they would always ask me was, “What should I buy? What should I buy?” I appreciated the enthusiasm, but again, as much as I wanted to make the sale, I wanted them to feel stronger and more impassioned about the piece, which was more important to me than trying to sell them something that, at the end of the day, they might have any regrets about because, what I used to tell people all the time, “Listen, I’m not a car salesman. I don’t sell the art. The art sells itself. We can have a discussion about it. We can talk about various aspects of it, but at the end of the day, I want you to say, ‘You know what, I've looked at this piece long enough. This is the piece I've got to have in my home’” and that meant more to me thn me just trying to sell what was the most expensive piece housed at the time.
That’s terrific and very admirable. Victoria, do you have a passion outside of the acting that you like to spend time on?
Victoria: Yeah, I do. There are a couple things. I started taking archery about a year and a half ago. It was kind of funny. Again, Terrell, he exposes me to so many things. I started teaching acting at a college and he said, “You know one of the books that you should assign for reading is Zen in the Art of Archery” and I was like, “Okay…” “Why in the world would I be reading Zen in the Art of Archery for an acting class?” but then I read it and I was like, “Oh, I see how this relates to acting” and I would have my students do a paper on how it relates to acting.
It’s a slow read, but it’s a fascinating notion of being the arrow, being the target, that whole thing. Then I reread it again because I was teaching again and I said, “Eh, I haven’t read it in a couple of years. Let me reread it, just to have a fresh point of view” and I was like, archery sounds really interesting. Why don’t I just try archery? So I went and had a lesson and I absolutely loved it. I went and got equipment and my husband was going, “Oh gosh, this is one of her flash in the pan hobbies that she’s going to do” but it hasn’t been. Whenever I can, even when I go away, when I went to New York to do Venice at the public theater, I took my equipment and I would trek out to Queens every once in a while and go shoot on the range.
Good for you.
Victoria: I’m really passionate about that.
You and Geena Davis.
Victoria: Geena Davis, one of my personal idols for many, many reasons, archery being one of them and also because she’s a member of Mensa, which is pretty insane as well. [Laugh] Yeah and actually I think Darryl Hannah as well. I like sports like that. I’m not athletic, per se. I used to dance. I was a dancer and so I’m athletic in that way. I got my yoga certification many, many years ago, so I do teach yoga but in terms of athletics, I didn’t play baseball or softball or anything like that. So, I've always done things that have been a little bit more spiritually feeding for me and archery does that for me. There is something about just being there by yourself on the range and it’s very quiet and there’s a lot of solitude and I like that. It’s calming for me.
So what advice do you give to young actors who are just starting out?
Terrell: I would tell them, this is something I take very serious and this is something I try to impress upon young people all the time. I tell them first, I said, it’s a privilege to be an artist and it’s an even greater privilege to be a working artist, but what I tell them, I say don’t do this for the money because there will be more times that you’ll be broke than you’ll have money and on those days when there’s nothing else going on and you feel like you have nothing in your life to validate you, you need to know that your personal talent within yourself, whether it’s you sitting at home reading Shakespeare, whether it’s you in an acting class, whether it’s you doing a play down in the village in New York which we’ve both done for absolutely no money whatsoever, you’re doing it because those things fulfill you in a very different way.
So understand the basics and, like anything in life, doctors go to school. Doctors get training. Engineers, they study. Study the craft. One thing that was impressed upon me even in grad school was reading biographies. Read about people not only in your field but in other fields as well because those are the things that are going to help just inform you about life and if you can’t identify in some sort of way human struggle, people overcoming things, understanding people’s journeys, then how are you going to be able to bring some level of your own humanity to the work?
At the same time, there’s a lot of pressure within this business of people telling you what to do. “Gain five pounds, lose five pounds, dye your hair, cut your hair, change your name, shorten your name”, so many different things and I tell people, I say, at the end of the day, you’ve got to maintain your own integrity and understand your own personal value within the system because it is a system. It’s a machine and so many people that we know for so many reasons and even you look at older successful actors, we just lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, you’ve got to have a support team of people around you that are willing to have your back no matter what and that are willing to tell you no or that you’re wrong at the times when you think you might be feeling yourself a little bit too much. So what I’m saying is there’s got be a sense of groundedness that you’ve got to have within this because there are just too many pitfalls that people have fallen toward.
Very good advice. Victoria, do you have anything to add?
Victoria: I’m much more cynical than Terrell. [Laughter] I don’t think young people should be in this business. I started out as a kid and though I think I've become a well-adjusted adult, it was really difficult in a business that is based on things that are transitory and temporary. They’re based on things that I believe are shallow sometimes, many times, what you look like and many of those things, you don’t have control over. This is not a career based on meritocracy. It’s not like becoming a doctor. You go to school to become a doctor and if you get good grades and pass all your exams, you can have a practice. That is not the same thing in this business. You can be the most amazing actor in the world and still be on the unemployment line.
For every Will Smith and Angelina Jolie, there are literally tens of thousands of other people who are not working and I know every one of us, you have to go into this career thinking, “I will not be one of those people. I will be one of the Will Smiths and Angelina Jolies,” but we all say that and not all of us are up there. So somehow, we have to have some sort of, we’ve got to have a foot in the real world and say, in this way I do agree with Terrell, that you’ve got to have some sort of passion for it, but the other thing is, just be honest. Have your dream, obviously, but also know it’s not based on meritocracy. Just because you’re professional, just because you’re talented, just because you’re a wonderful actor does not mean that you’re going to be successful.
It’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around and, as a child, it doesn’t make sense in terms of how you view the rest of the world. It doesn’t set you up very well for the rest of the world. So I would say for young people, if you have not gone through college yet, don’t get into this business yet. Go through college, have a childhood, have a normal life, make some relationships, have some experiences, travel. Then if you still think, “This is a thing I love to do and absolutely can’t live without it,” then do it, but then you’ve already had a good foundation. You have a good sense of who you are and you’ve seen what real is as much as you possibly can before you get into the world of the unreal, because this business is often the world of the unreal. I call it The Matrix not for nothing. [Laugh]
I think that’s really terrific advice and this has really been a fun interview.
To follow Victoria and Terrell on Twitter, here are their websites: @VictoriousPlatt and @TerrellTilford.