Sela Ann Ward (born July 11, 1956) is an American actress, author, and producer, best known for her roles on television beginning in the early 1980s.
Her breakthrough TV role was as Teddy Reed in the NBC drama series Sisters (1991–96), for which she received her first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1994. She received her second Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for the leading role of Lily Manning in the ABC drama series Once and Again (1999–2002). Ward later had the recurring role of Stacy Warner in the Fox medical drama House, and starred as Jo Danville in the CBS police procedural CSI: NY (2010–2013).
Click Magazine: What was it like moving to L.A. from little Meridian, Mississippi, all those years ago?
Sela Ward: I moved to New York first, so that made it a little easier to transition to Los Angeles. I took a few acting classes in New York to help with some commercial acting I was doing at the time. I was offered a daytime soap opera but ended up turning it down, so I decided to head to LA to give acting a shot. I was still very green, I had only studied for about a year and I had a lot of catching up to do. I landed a job two weeks after I got there from someone who knew someone who knew Blake Edwards. He was casting the Burt Reynolds movie, Men Who Love Women, at the time. I auditioned and got the part, used that as a springboard to get other jobs and never left.
CM: Was there a moment you knew it would all work out?
SW: When I got a role on a show called Emerald Point N.A.S. It was only on for a season, but it was wonderful to get my feet wet with a consistent role. Once the work was steady, I remember thinking to myself “OK, I can do this.” Shortly after that I picked up a role on Sisters, and that was where I really learned my chops over the course of six years. It’s kind of like that Malcolm Gladwell outliers book, that was where I did my 10,000 hours. It was a really important role for me and by that point I felt like it the whole thing was effortless.
Crystal Ball star of hope Sela Ward talks acting, ambition and philanthropy
Interview by Casey Hilder
CM: How old were you when you started acting?
SW: I was 27 when I got started, which is extremely late in acting. But I was never an ingénue in any of my roles, so that hasn’t been much of a problem for me.
CM: You worked alongside a young Tom Hanks in the 1986 movie Nothing in Common. What was that like?
SW: It was great. I like Tom a lot, he’s absolutely wonderful to work with and a very kind man. I learned a lot working on that – I wasn’t particularly good in it, but I learned a lot.
CM: Let's talk Hope Village. What led to its creation and how are you involved today?
SW: A friend of mine had a emergency abuse shelter. It was a temporary deal that could take kids in for up to 30 days and I used to take Christmas presents there when I was younger. One year, I happened to meet these two brothers whose parents’ rights had been terminated. The father had been prostituting the sisters and they were kept in different parts of the state. As one of four, this was absolutely heartbreaking for me. So these two brothers were really pulling my heartstrings and I was so taken by their energy and spirit, realizing that they could one day be great people if given the opportunity. So I ultimately went and found the money to fix up an old masonic orphanage and it’s been open since 2000. I think we’ve made a big difference, one kid at a time. We try to keep siblings together. I think it’s a very needed, useful thing that’s been immensely rewarding.
CM: It's been said that your Memoir, Homesick, was written for the women you grew up with in Meridian. Is there any truth to this?
SW: I was approached to do a tell-all style book and I just wasn’t interested. My mother was dying at the time and, in a lot of ways, the book kind of became a love letter to her. What I was most interested in was talking about how to find that sense of community and belonging in a bigger world that you find in small, Southern towns. It’s really a book about exploring more than anything.
CM: Can you briefly talk about your first job in Memphis?
SW: I can’t stand the taste of Pepsi. But I took a job as a Pepsi Girl, someone to represent the company at the Danny Thomas Golf Classic and a few other events around town. I didn’t major in public relations, so I knew nothing about PR at the time. Some young hotshot manager looks at me and says “OK, there’s your desk. Get to work.” So I go and buy a college PR text book and it’s sitting on my lap every day as I try to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing. It was really pretty disastrous. One day the general manager comes up to me and says “I can’t help but notice these bottles of Coke in your car.” I knew I was about to get fired, so I just left.
CM: You cheered for the University of Alabama during Bear Bryant’s legendary tenure. What was it like being part of such a huge time in college football history? National television, bowl games, the whole thing was a very exciting and All-American apple pie experience.
SW: It was so cool, everything you could imagine. He was already a legend at the time and so revered, and they were just constantly winning.
CM: What advice do you have for small-town girls with big city dreams?
SW: You have to be in Los Angeles or New York. It’s hard to plug into that world unless you are where it’s all happening. If you’re gonna go for it, you have to make a commitment. And it’s very important to give yourself a time limit: a year, a year and a half, something like that. If nothing happens, you will have enjoyed the process and the ride and, hopefully, become a more conscious and introspective person through the nature of studying acting. And then you move on.