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Mack Wilds’ Guide to New York City

The actor-musician talks his new TV series (plural!), a new album, and his enduring love for the Big Apple

Wild is one way to describe the actor-musician Mack Wilds’ career of late: With roles in two new TV series and a sophomore album on the brink of completion, the native New Yorker is set to take 2017 by storm. Wilds’ February return to the small screen, on VH1’s “The Breaks” (a scripted program on ‘90s hip-hop culture based on the network’s 2016 film of the same name), will be followed by the March premiere of Fox’s “Shots Fired,” a ten-part, racially-charged drama that follows its characters in the wake of a fictional police shooting.

Such nuanced topics are a slight departure from the actor’s most recent role on The CW’s “90210” revival. Gone are the soapy days of Beverly Hills High School and, in their place, subject matter more reminiscent of Wilds’ days on “The Wire,” HBO’s acclaimed early aughts crime drama. It’s clear  the power that television, as a medium, affords Wilds to explore such thought-provoking ideas is not lost on him.

“I think people are actually starting to see television become something of stature, something that can stand up just like film can,” Wilds says. “A lot of people, with the stories they have and the way that they want to tell them, go to television to present them in a more well-formed version. You can learn the depth of every character and the emotional pathos of every single moment.”

It’s easy to see how jumping from portraying of a troubled policeman one week to an aspiring music producer the next could challenge certain actors. But Wilds says he was able to emotionally channel his characters of Officer Joshua Beck and DeeVee because they both resonated “deeply in his life.” (Wilds’ connection to the latter comes as no surprise: As a Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist, he’s very much in touch with his musical ability.)

“‘Shots Fired’ is a television show that challenges its viewers as they watch. It speaks on the social ills of our generation right now, and [in the] past,” Wilds explains. “‘The Breaks’ is more of an honest look back on a time when people thought hip hop wouldn’t have made it another year. Nobody believed in it. But there were a few kids who had enough heart and enough determination to actually say, ‘We’re going to go out here, we’re going to make it happen.’”

As Wilds continues to forge his own career as a modern hip-hop artist, he finds himself once again in transition, this time from the youthful New York nostalgia of his debut album to deeper thematic exploration. Months of filming all day left Wilds with only the midnight hours to devote to his music, as such, he began to deeply consider how humanity can be shaped by the night.

“Nighttime kind of makes you feel things differently than you would during the day. A breakup feels different when you’re alone at night. Loving someone feels different at night. Going through someone’s Instagram feels a little sneakier at night,” Wilds says. “There are certain feelings that I want to recreate—with this next album I hopefully achieve that.”

His newfound romance with the night notwithstanding, Wilds is adamant his true love will always be his home city. “Through and through I’m a New York boy. The way I dress, the way I walk, the way I talk—it’s because of that city,” Wilds says. “I have to thank God for giving [it to] me, because everything that feels real comes from that city.” The multi-faceted (and multi-talented) performer shares specific Big Apple spots that have shaped him in the below guide.

Cup of Joe: I don’t usually do coffee unless I’m on set, but El Rey’s brownie hot cocoa is fire. 

Retail Therapy: Ronnie [Feig] at Kith is my guy—and Nick always shows me love.

Date Night: Wo Hop—that China aesthetic is a vibe. 

Cocktail Hour: My man Devin at Grand Army Bar is a beast. 

Hidden Gem: Seafood Kitchen, [just across the Hudson River] in New Jersey.

Field Trip: The Staten Island Ferry.  

Main Image Credit: Ravie B