Preston Tyler Ward was born in Santa Cruz, CA, but grew up in San Jose. After graduating from Long Beach State in the Spring of 2010, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. His focus has revolved around independent films, comedic web series, and performing for the United States Navy. We caught up with him recently to ask about his life and career so far.
Hey, Preston, where did you start out when you first arrived in L.A?
Downtown Los Angeles, on 3rd and Spring Street. It’s pretty interesting looking back on that now because downtown is a bubble of sorts. It has its own unique feel and atmosphere. It’s a small slice of the LA pie.
What was it like for you?
I felt major culture shock and a sharp sense of being out-of-place. At times, it felt like being on a movie set and all the actors and extras were either young professionals with lots of money or homeless people living under a bridge. I didn’t fit into either category, so it often felt like a dream world. Just walking to the market in the morning could exhaust you with the overwhelming stimuli of the downtown streets.
It took moving to Glendale in late 2013 for me to realize how special it was living next to those historical landmarks like the Bradbury Building, City Hall, The LA Times Building, and Angel’s Flight. It was such a cool experience overall. I will always have a special place in my mind for those first three years in downtown L.A.
What was your first acting gig out here and how did you land it?
My first paid acting gig was a spokesman spot for a company called MyMove.com in 2011. I gave tips on how to make your move a successful one; everything from packing up your flat screen to relocating your pets. It was cool to see how many thousands of times these various clips were watched on YouTube. To this day, people will reach out to me and say they saw a much younger looking Preston giving moving advice after they searched for helpful tips on relocating. My mini claim to fame.
How have you been coping with the pandemic? Are you able to stay busy?
While the pandemic has been troubling and tragic for so many people in so many ways, I have tried to find the silver linings during this time. Not only was I released from a decade of working as a restaurant server, I was also compelled to look inward for the first time since I can remember. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of the “LA Hustle” and forget why you really came in the first place. This downtime has given me the chance to pause and ask myself “what do you really want?” I can’t just say “I’m a struggling actor currently working as a server” until I’m 40. I couldn’t allow that to be my identity; I needed to recreate that identity and get back in touch with the childlike wonder and imagination of storytelling, sharing my unique dark comedy, and creating connectivity with the humans that matter most in my life. It was an opportunity that may have not presented itself without this chapter.
That’s quite an awakening.
It was. The pandemic helped me take control of and get back behind the driver’s seat. As we all know, it moves real fast and I’ve discovered that it’s a healthy thing to hit the pause button once in a while and re-define where you’re headed.
You have a background doing performances for the military. Can you talk about that?
Since 2014, I have worked with sailors and marines at various military bases around the world with my performance troupe Pure Praxis. We are a social change group that uses interactive shows to teach Sexual Assault Prevention and Destructive Decisions. It’s much more effective than a PowerPoint Presentation. I have been lucky enough to travel across the US, Spain, Italy, Greece, the middle east, and my all-time favorite, Japan. Using theatre and performance to make a direct difference for young servicemen and women in the military around the globe is something I take true pride in. The work has been the most rewarding experience of my personal and professional life.
What have you worked on recently on the film front?
I finished working on a seriously fun independent film called “Magic Hour,” which will be released later this year, directed by the very funny and talented Alan Matz. It’s a comedic, apocalyptic horror film where I was fortunate enough to play one of the evil characters. Lots of blood, laughs, and of course a killer clown. Cannot wait to see how it turns out. I also recently released a short film which my company, MatadorTwentyThree produced called, “Gun.” We are currently exploring the film festival circuit and have already had a positive response from several.
What is your role in “Gun?”
I play a corrupt detective who pressures a small-time arms dealer to provide information for a murder case. I co-wrote and produced with my writing partner Andre Rollins. We shot on an Alexa Mini and it came out even better than we had hoped. Detective Ramsey is one of those characters you dream to play; so much fun. I learned that you have to create those opportunities for yourself and go get it done.
What’s next for you work-wise?
My writing partner and I are in pre-production on a limited series called “Ventura” and I just finished shooting a web series called, “Half-Grown.”
What’s that about?
Half-Grown is a very funny light-hearted comedy about two roommates, who are completely mismatched. One of them thriving and one is failing to launch. I play a “Scotty” who is having a really tough time adulting.
What about “Ventura?”
Ventura deals with the clashing of Mongrol and Hell’s Angel culture against the Mexican Cartel and Mafia during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I will play Sean Brennan who was involved in Hell’s Angel circles and drug culture during the 80’s and 90’s. We get to see some of the aftermath of the “intermingling” and violence of these criminal groups under the backdrop of Ventura, California.
Sounds like you have a lot on the go.
It took a long time to form solid working relationships with good people. I’m just leaning on that right now.
Thanks for chatting with us, Preston.
Thank you so much.