Ving Rhames is always kicking someone’s- or something’s- ass. That’s why we like him.  He’s also been the face of Stacy Adams, and we all know that a grown man in an apricot suit is nothing to be trifled with.

This Christmas, Rhames can be seen in the fourth Mission: Impossible movie, along with Tom Cruise and Paula Patton. But that’s just one of the many recent projects the Harlem-born, Juilliard- trained actor has been working on: He portrays a principal in Learning to Fly, also starring Viola Davis, due next spring; this year, he’s also in Shark Knight 3D and the SyFy channel’s Zombie Apocalypse, he’s prepping to portray Suge Knight in the film about Death Row Records; getting ready to fight Jean-Claude Van Damme in another as yet –untitled action flick; and right now, he’s likely in South Africa filming the third installment of rental hit Death Race.

For all his highfalutin education, Rhames has a one- word answer to the question of why he gravitates to films that lean, ever so slightly, toward the fantastic.

“Fun,” he says, simply. “If you’ve ever gone to Comic- Con, you know it’s a big fun thing. This whole zombie category? It’s huge. It’s escapism. That’s what I love about it.”

Rhames says he has man- aged to stay relevant to every generation of moviegoer by going against the grain and not limiting himself to working with just one director.

“A fellow like Sam [Jack-son] or me or [Laurence] Fishburne? We were never tied to directors,” he says. “I wasn’t exclusively in that Spike Lee or Bill Duke or

Robert Townsend camp. In the long run it worked out better for me, I feel, because the industry didn’t put me in the actor-who-does-Black- films-category.”

In real life, Rhames is not exactly a zombie-killing, gravelly voiced, cigar-smoking superNegro. He’s more like Mr. Mentor, active in Developing Options, a Crenshaw-based gang-intervention group. One of his straight-to-DVD movies, Animal, even deals with the topic head on. Additionally, Rhames works with kids in Teen Dream, a basketball-to-life program he founded. His kids also work with the well known Basketball Finest Training Academy in L.A.

“At a certain point in life, I think it’s really about what your legacy is going to be. What did you give while you were on this planet? Did you try to make this place a better place?”