Ving Rhames: “I Am My Brother’s Keeper”
Hollywood actor Ving Rhames, who shortened his first name, Irving, to simply Ving at the suggestion of fellow acting student and college roommate Stanley Tucci, has grown in his profession to become an actor recognized for his booming voice and the physical and emotional gravity he brings to his roles.
Commanding a seven figure salary on any movie set he graces, Ving says it’s his family and faith that keeps him grounded no matter how big he gets.
In 1993, during the filming of The Saint of Fort Washington in New York City, Rhames was unexpectedly reunited with his brother, Junior, a troubled, homeless Vietnam veteran who’d been estranged from the Rhames family for years. Several scenes of the film were shot at a homeless shelter, with Rhames playing a street tough who took advantage of the homeless men. One day, Rhames recognized one of the men at the shelter as his long-lost brother. He brought his brother back to his apartment and helped him find a job. “I realized then, more than ever, that I am my brother’s keeper and we as human beings are all our brothers’ keepers,” Rhames remarked in a Rogers & Cowan publicity release. “We have to take some responsibility in helping those less fortunate.”
Born the son of a mechanic and a homemaker who were children of Southern sharecroppers, the actor draws strength from the depth of his family roots in Harlem, N.Y. While his mother has been a powerful and positive influence in his life, Rhames has also let his faith steer him in a business not always known for its high moral ground.
“I allow God to guide me,” he says. “In some ways I don’t make choices. I try to stay out of God’s way. God has always provided for me, always had his hand on my life. I knew that at a very young age. My thing is to let go and let God. God knows what is better for me than I do.”
Rhames enjoyed a great deal of professional success in 1994. Partly due to his friendship with Eriq La Salle, a fellow classmate at Juilliard, he was selected to play La Salle’s auto-mechanic brother-in-law on the top-rated television series ER. Acting opportunities for Rhames increased dramatically after his role as an ominous gangster baron in Quentin Tarantino’s widely acclaimed film Pulp Fiction. According to Cinemania’s review of his performance, Rhames “brought a distinct blend of suaveness and menace to his portrayal of crime boss Marsellus Wallace.…” In 1995, Rhames was cast opposite Nicholas Cage…