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The Transformation Of Reno Wilson From Childhood To Good Girls

NBC's dramedy "Good Girls" was a tale of how three regular suburban moms ended up neck-tattoo-deep in a life of crime. The show centers around Beth (Christina Hendricks), Ruby (Retta), and Annie (Mae Whitman), who rob a supermarket due to financial debt. Unbeknownst to them, though, they are inadvertently stepping on the toes of local gang leader Rio (Manny Montana) and doing things they have no business doing, just to keep the bills paid. Although the show was canceled after Season 4, it still remains a fan favorite.

One of the relationships that audiences seem to really enjoy was the marriage of Stan and Ruby Hill. The couple is one of the few fictional marriages on TV one could actually look up to as relationship goals. The two give us a performance of a loving and connected husband and wife who always have each other's back, for better or worse. Reno Wilson plays devoted husband Stan, who absolutely "stans" for his wife. With almost 90 on-screen projects on his resume, it's clear Wilson has been at this for a long time and there is something about him that audiences connect with. So who is Reno Wilson, and how did he come to be such a phenomenal performer who brings something special to each one of his characters? Let's take a look.

He is Brooklyn born

A native New Yorker, Roy Reno Wilson was born January 20, 1969, to a blues pianist father and an opera singer mother. It stands to reason, then, that performing is in his blood. After losing his father at the early age of 4, his mother was left to raise Reno and his three older sisters on her own. Wilson's father, who died while performing on stage, gave him the name for reasons unknown to Wilson. ("My dad said that he always wanted to name his son Reno. I don't know if that means he went to Reno and gambled on the name or what," he told Smashing Interviews.)

When he was 9 years old, he performed in his first play, and he was convinced this was the life for him. That role in a school play led him to choose acting as his passion. For Wilson, there was nothing else. This is what the universe prepared for him and there was no "plan B."

He shows up for his community

Reno Wilson was so dedicated to the art of performing, that he attended the Meyer Levin School for the Performing Arts. His experience there meant so much to him that he still holds the school very near and dear to his heart. In 2016, city school officials proposed the controversial co-location of his alma mater. This would mean bringing in another school to share space in the existing building and the performing arts program would lose its space. The "Mike & Molly" star joined the community to fight for his former middle school alma mater, arguing that the move would be "devastating to the young minds and psyches of the children" (via United Federation of Teachers). Wilson was instrumental in the fight to protect the project, and in the end, the proposal was overturned and the arts program was saved. The school continues to serve the community and its members with a successful performing arts program.

Wilson's dedication to the program didn't end there; in 2019, he even organized a birthday run to raise money for the school. The actor raised close to $5,000, what he called "a small step to make sure performing arts education is valued and will continue at this great school."

He is proud of his Caribbean roots

Reno Wilson's family is of Antiguan and Barbadian descent, giving him Caribbean roots. Specifically, the "Crank" star grew up in East Flatbush, a residential neighborhood in Brooklyn. East Flatbush is known for its large population of Caribbean residents. He is always ready to slip into the dialect and speak of how he misses the Caribbean cuisine back home. In 2013, he was the honoree of the Caribbean Heritage Award. This is an honor bestowed upon people who represent the core values of the Caribbean Heritage Organization.

Wilson believes there is a lack of West Indian representation in film and TV, so he is currently working on a screenplay to help remedy that. "When you think of Martin Scorsese, you think of ... New York Italians," he explained during an Instagram Live interview. "But the West Indians and East Flatbush have not been represented ... It's time that we come out and tell the so many stories coming out of the Caribbean community in East Flatbush."

He got his start on one of TV's biggest shows

Starting in 1984, "The Cosby Show" ran for eight seasons and helped to serve as a place for established as well as up-and-coming Black performers to showcase their talents. Reno Wilson is included in that group. "The Cosby Show" was the hit sitcom about the Huxtables, an upper-middle-class Black family, and the challenges of raising five children. Walking into that iconic living room as Theo Huxtable's college friend Howard, Reno Wilson marked his on-screen debut

Fans still remember him as being one of the many stars that brought life to the show. Appearing in several episodes, Wilson was able to display the comedic timing that prepared him for more roles to come. "The Transformers" star went on to guest star in more hit sitcoms such as "Coach" and "Martin." It's been said that comedy is the most difficult thing to do in the world, but the "Grand-Daddy Day Care" star makes it look easy.

He moved to LA with a specific goal

Once Reno Wilson had introduced himself to the world on "The Cosby Show," the actor decided it was time to take his talents to the West Coast. In 1993, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams of acting and to "get on a hit show." In other words, like many other actors, Wilson relocated to Hollywood in order to participate in pilot season (the period of time between January and April when the studios order new show pilots) because it marks a great time for new-to-the-game actors to come to town. 

Ultimately, Wilson's decision to take his talents across the country seems to have been a good one. Shortly after moving to LA, he booked a guest spot on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." From that point on, he has been working consistently with at least one film or television show to his credit every year.

How he stays a working Black actor

In this industry, it can be difficult for the majority of Black actors to find interesting and layered characters to inhabit. Sometimes the roles aren't there, and it's easy for Black actors to get put into a box they aren't soon to get out of. That being said, Reno Wilson had the rare opportunity to display his gift of range throughout his career. He hasn't been limited to just one genre or character type. His versatility has taken him through comedy, drama, sci-fi, crime, and mystery, and he is at home in it all. As he told Jet Magazine, "When you're acting you obviously want to get whatever job you need to pay the bills, but I've been fortunate enough to play a lot of positive characters that transcend race."

Wilson's strong ethic and will to never give up have also served him well. Sure, it took several series that were cut short in their prime for him to get to the one that really resonated with fans. After years of guest spots and one-season wonders, though, destiny brought the script for "Mike & Molly" to his desk.

He saw Mike & Molly as a dream come true

Reno Wilson's "Mike & Molly" co-star, Billy Gardell, were already friends and familiar with each other's energy. After starring in the 2006 TV series "Heist" together, the pair shared screen time on an episode of "Las Vegas." Wilson told Smashing Interviews Magazine that when he got the script for "Mike & Molly," he immediately prompted Gardell to read the script, saying, "Dude, this is our show. This is it." Wilson went on to express how grateful he was for the experience, explaining, "It's so rare that you get to work with one of your best friends, and then to have it be successful."

Wilson spent six seasons playing Officer Carl McMillan, opposite Gardell's Officer Mike Briggs. It wasn't just the chemistry between the titular characters that kept bringing delighted fans back each week; thanks to Wilson and Gardell's already established real-life friendship, it was easy for art to imitate life. As Wilson told Collider, "Literally, our relationship is really similar to what you see on screen. They say it's a bromance, but there's love there. There's somebody that you trust and that you're going through life with."

You may recognize his voice

Did you know that Reno Wilson was also in several of the live-action Transformers films? You may not have noticed because his handsome mug wasn't on screen and wasn't always intelligible. His voice has given life to both Autobots and Decepticons, including Frenzy, Mudflap, and Mohawk. While most of his Transformers spoke English, the voice actor actually created a language for Frenzy, the small and hyperactive Decepticon. But don't think that voice-over work is an easy gig. Wilson said on Twitter, "Truthfully, being in the booth and doing the [voiceover] with Michael Bay is like a sport. I'm drenched with sweat after."

In addition to alien vehicles that talk, Reno has voiced characters in several video games. His first video game role was in 2009 as the Black Baron in MadWorld, an inventive third-person action game exclusively for the Wii. He would later add his captivating voice to Final Fantasy XIII series and Star Wars: The Old Republic. And let's not forget, he was the voice for a generation to fight thirst as Miles Thirst, the Sprite mascot from the early 2000s.

He was ecstatic to play one of his idols

With musical parents, it's only natural that Reno Wilson would also have the gift of song, playing the piano and attempting to learn the trumpet. He is also an enthusiast of jazz great Louis Armstrong and his contributions to American music. This admiration led him to start working on the stage version to bring Armstrong's story to life, with Reno playing the legend himself. When the script for the film "Bolden" found its way to him, he jumped on the opportunity. "Bolden" is about King Buddy Bolden, the first king of New Orleans music. He was a relatively unknown figure, who many of the early jazz greats give credit as the man who invented jazz. 

"I get a script, I open it, and the first character I see is Louis Armstrong, and literally while I had the script, I was holding a trumpet and a handkerchief in my hand. So I was already in the space. It was crazy," the actor told Behind the Lens. Wilson, ready to shoot his shot, went to the audition in costume and character... and nailed it. He was so impressive as the reincarnation of Louis Armstrong, that he performed with Wynton Marsalis at the Gala Jazz at Lincoln Center, in character.

Reno loves being a dad

With his role as Stan Hill in "Good Girls," Reno Wilson got to borrow a lot of inspiration from his real-life family devotion to express who the character was. As he told Build, "The most important thing to me in my life is my wife and my kids." Certainly, followers of Wilson's social media platforms will know as much — he is not shy about publicly doting on his two beautiful children, daughter Deni, and son Renzo. 

On Father's Day, for example, he took to Instagram to thank his wife Coco Fausone-Wilson for the life they have made, writing, "Being a dad ... has been one of my greatest joys in this lifetime. Thanks for making me a father Coco!!" He and his wife Coco, also celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary in June 2022. Considering Wilson's real-life love story, it's no wonder he made Stan's devotion look so natural in "Good Girls."

Reno and his wife stay active

Reno Wilson and Coco Fausone-Wilson love to live an active lifestyle. She is a yoga and spin instructor and owner of the Cycling Pigeon in Los Angeles, and, as detailed by the Los Angeles Times, Wilson has taken up the practice in his own way.

Even though his wife initially introduced the spin life to Wilson, he seems to have really taken to it, even holding classes for his "Mike & Molly" family and others in the studio. He reportedly joked to his co-stars, "The show that spins together stays together, wins Emmys together." Meanwhile, Coco Fausone-Wilson said her husband's fitness journey echoes the events of the show. "The show is about everybody dealing with their health," she told LA Times.

Wilson believes Ruby and Stan's relationship is important

Playing one of TV's most devoted husbands looks good on Reno Wilson. Wilson and Retta came into the show not knowing one another and didn't meet until the table reading when Reno had a unique way of introducing himself to Retta. "I came up behind her and grabbed her from behind. I kissed her on the neck and cheek," he told Build. It's a good thing Retta was receptive because Wilson does draw on his own marital bonds to help get into character, while Retta looks to her parent's marriage. "My mother is obsessed with my father," Retta explained in the same interview.

Another thing that makes the pair so special is that it's rare for major networks to showcase Black family love in such a positive and faithful way. Even though the Hills had their problems, they were relatable. As Wilson told Film Daily, "I think visually you've never seen a couple like them on television. It's a pleasure to love up on this beautiful Black woman and a beautiful Black kid on TV. I think it's important for people to see that."