Tuesday, April 24, 2012

* My Interview With* Jonathan Ward

From Actor to Designer

Jonathan Ward spent most of his youth on television and movie sets like Charles in Charge, Steele Magnolias and my favorite movie, Mac and Me. Now he runs his own company that specializes in modified Toyota Land Cruisers called TLC and ICON. Jonathan so graciously answered some of my questions about his past career and his love of art and design.

Name: Jonathan Ward
Occupation:  CEO and Lead Designer, TLC & ICON
Currently Located:  Los Angeles, California

Geek Sheek:  I understand acting is no longer apart of your life but if you would give a little background of why and how you got into the business.

I stumbled into that career through a chance meeting with Mikhail Baryshnikov, in Washington D.C., at his first US appearance (Don Quixote) at the Kennedy Center. One thing led to another, and I landed a role on Broadway as Michael in Peter Pan. That ran for almost two years, and started the ball rolling. I had a diverse career in TV, Broadway, animation and film. It was a great experience but I found myself a bit bored and unchallenged after a while. Add to that the fact that I had a stalker that made life a bit uncomfortable, eventually leading me to a decision to turn my hobby into a business.

Geek Sheek:  What is something that people don’t understand about “The Business” especially when you’re so young?
Jonathan in a Teen Magazine
You hear so many stories about rotten child actors, drugs, booze and strife. Never happened with me. I had an amazing experience. Got to travel the world and get to know some truly brilliant artists. Also, the skills in communication and personal confidence aid me every day in my new business and life in general.
Geek Sheek:  While auditioning what was your process like?
Crappy, just like everyone else. Basically like gambling. You keep dumping nickels (in this case, little bits of your soul…) in the slot, and that one win makes it all worth it.
Geek Sheek:  How did you deal with rejection?
learned early on not to take it personally. So many factors, many having nothing to do with the individual who did not get a call back. Also, one no often leads to another opportunity, as in life.
Geek Sheek:  Since Mac and Me was a favorite movie of mine as a child I wanted to ask if you have any interesting stories that went on behind the scenes?
JW in Mac and Me
Great crew and people, wonderful director. We had fun with that project but I admit I was horrified when the production company needed more money and took funds from McDonalds, resulting in the odd, spontaneous “music video” scene at a McDonalds. A low point for sure. Hard to hold your head up in that situation and smile for the camera. Made us all feel like tramps!
Geek Sheek:  Tell us where your real passion landed and how you got into it?
I have always been drawn to craftsmanship and good design. I am a huge industrial design geek, on all levels. I used to sculpt and paint, and always loved classic cars. Acting allowed me the time and money to engage in that hobby. I used to apprentice at some shops run my auto legends during the hiatus weeks when I was doing Charles In Charge, and then even would build cars when sitting around on location. I built a 34 Ford while shooting Steel Magnolias, to keep myself entertained. Eventually I realized that automotive design and restoration represented a convergence of all I enjoyed and admired. I saw an opportunity, as no one was doing the sort of proper restorations on utility vehicles that they would apply to conventional 2WD classics, and I went for it.
Geek Sheek:  Tell us a little bit about your company TLC ICON and what it offers?
Two distinct and independent brands: ICON (icon4x4.com), and TLC (tlc4x4.com). ICON is all about classic transportation revisited in a modern context. We have a range of production vehicles, plus we do interesting one-off vehicles (iconcustoms.com) combining classic design with modern engineering, to create daily drivers with soul. TLC focuses on caring for (sales, service, restoration and parts) Toyota Land Cruisers of all vintages (1958 to current). We also consult various automotive OEM’s.
Geek Sheek: I understand you are a consultant for Toyota, how did that come about?
We started by doing some restorations for dealers around the world. Eventually, when Toyota was considering developing the FJ Cruiser, Mr. Toyoda reached out to us and commissioned three design study vehicles. It was a great experience.
Geek Sheek:  With the economy the way it is now what is the market like for modified vehicles?
Irregardless of the mass economic situation, I find consumers (and not just automotive) are seeking our products of distinction, built and created by driven people. Products with story and purpose, perhaps in response to the lack of quality and care found in most high volume manufactured consumer goods. I sense a resurgence of Heritage goods, crafted with care to last and be proud of. I am honored to be a part of that “movement/community”.
Geek Sheek:  I’m not going to pretend to know anything about cars or how they are built and I can assume the majority of your customers are men but what do your female customers often look for?
Again, something unique and built to last. We have several female ICON owners. Tired of the bland production cars, maybe looking for something with a bit of a spirit of adventure to make life more interesting.
Geek Sheek:  Finally, what are some things you Geek out over?
Details in construction and design. I take pride in the fact that if nothing else, my design (and any good design, IMHO), is considered. Meaning, you can point out any element on my designs and for better or worse, I will have a long geek answer as to how it is made, why it is made out of a specific material etc… . I find inspiration in may other design segments, and apply them when possible to my creations.


Couldn't help but add this pic!

TLC Site

More about Jonathan's Career


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