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Ving Rhames on His Career: It’s ‘Better as I Get Older’

Actor shares role he’d like to play and famous friends he wants to work with

spinner image Ving Rhames against blue ombre background
AARP (Jeff Christensen/AP Photo)

Ving Rhames, 65, is still going strong, with no plans to retire. “If I’m able to do what I love doing, that’s success. I’ve been professionally acting for 40 years,” Rhames tells AARP.  For 25 of those years, Rhames has starred alongside Tom Cruise in the popular Mission Impossible movies — and now he’s taking on an action role of the animated variety as the voice of Otto the bull in the new Garfield Movie. In our interview, Rhames shares why he enjoys voice acting, the actor who inspired him and the historical figure he’d love to play.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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How is voice acting different from character acting?

It’s not difficult; it’s more like fun. [Animation] gives you an insight to the character, where you see the images of him and how he moves. So that made it pretty easy. It’s actually very freeing because I’m not [acting] with anyone else.

You’ve got several projects in the works, including the next Mission Impossible film [set to release in 2025]. It doesn’t sound like you’re retiring soon.

Now I’m one of the few actors whose career is doing, let’s say, better as I get older. Maybe it’s because the actors ahead of me are getting older and they need to be replaced. Oh, it feels good. I’m doing pretty well. I make good money, so I’m happy.... I’m doing the eighth [Mission Impossible movie] now. It’s easy. The character was pretty much based on me.

How are you prioritizing your health in your 60s?

I see a chiropractor at least twice a week — I get my body aligned. It’s very good for me now. I get deep-tissue massages. [My diet is] no salt, no red meat, mostly fish and vegetables. [My exercise routine is] a bunch of stretches, really. Three months ago [I had to stop weight lifting], I pulled a muscle in my back. [I walk and run on] the treadmill.

You won a Golden Globe in 1998 for your portrayal of Don King [Don King: Only in America]. Is there another real-life person you’d like to play?

Maybe an older Martin Luther King [Jr]. He was a great man and a historical catalyst for change. I would do research and then use my imagination as to what he would be like years later after he passed away and how he views the world now.

spinner image Ving Rhames handing award statuette to Jack Lemmon
At the 1998 Golden Globes ceremony, Rhames gifted his leading actor award to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon.
Fitzroy Barrett/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

What inspired you to give your Golden Globe to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon at the 1998 ceremony?

God. I respected him, but I didn’t know him. It was something that God laid on my heart to do.

Who has inspired your acting journey?

James Earl Jones. He spoke at the Juilliard School [Rhames was a student and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1983], and then I met him one time at NYU. I saw him onstage do a couple of things — Othello, Fences.

You’ve worked with some of the best actors and directors. Is there anyone you’d still like to work with?

I’d like to work with friends of mine like Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, Sam Jackson. I went to high school with Wesley Snipes, and Laurence Fishburne used to come by the school almost every day to hang out.

Having worked with Tom Cruise for over 25 years on the Mission Impossible films, what’s something we might be surprised to know about him?

He’s the only man I’ve met who is like a pure human being. He does not see color. And the fact that he goes through trials and tribulations in this industry still.

spinner image Otto the bull and Garfield outside in a still from the Garfield Movie
Rhames lends his voice to Otto the bull in the new "Garfield Movie."
DNEG Animation

When you’ve got time off, what do you like to do?

I travel. I just went to Puerto Rico, and now I’m going to Ghana [for] two weeks. There’s a place in Ghana where the slaves would take a shower, so to speak, before they got on the slave ship. A very spiritual place.

Who’s given you the best advice over the years?

A pastor that I met when I was a child, and my mother: “Believe in yourself, no matter what.”

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