It’s a good year for Tristan Wilds. Heck, it’s been a good decade for the young man who has slowly yet steadily infiltrated every aspect of pop culture. If you’re under 30, you’ve seen him flex his shirtless muscles on the CW’s 90210. If you’re over 30, you know him from The Wire.

If you are into music, you know he’s made a mixtape and grew up at the same barbershop frequented by the Wu-Tang Clan. And if you’re into movies, you know his most recent role is as Ray Gun, the prisoner of war in the George Lucas new film, Red Tails.

“Originally, they were just having an open casting for everybody. So when I first went out, they told me to read for Lightning. I loved that role,” he says, flashing a bright smile and settling into the diner-style seat in the movie trailer just outside of the museum that played host for the EBONY cover shoot. “I think I would have killed it, but I wouldn’t have killed it how David (Oyelowo) did. So a shout-out to him. From there, they tried me for Ray Gun and, you know, I guess the stars aligned that day because it just felt right. The story was great.”

All the guys went through military training before filming the movie in Prague. The point was to get them in line—mentally—with what the real Red Tails had experienced. But the truth is, Wilds didn’t have to work out as much as the other guys. Blame it on Beverly Hills.

“I have a little more muscle then I was supposed to because of [90210],” he says. “I got right off the show and went straight to Prague. I still had all the weight on. So in five days I had to lose 10 pounds. It was a strict diet, sleep deprivation, a lot of running, hills. It was horrible.”

There’s more to that story, but the interview is derailed a bit by Method Man, who knocks on the door to the trailer like an angry undercover cop about to conduct a drug bust. The other guys in the trailer—Elijah Kelley and Michael B. Jordan included—all jump. Then Meth’s purple hat appears in the window and everyone laughs. Relaxes. Meth comes in. Horses around. Sits down. He’s too tall to stand for long in this space.

“Meth has definitely been an influence since I was a little kid,” says Wilds. ”I mean, I always liked him and Rae and Rza and all of them always coming into my dad’s barber shop right before their shows and shit. Like, it definitely I guess sparked a little bit of that. I remember being in Park Hill and putting up the posters that they used to give out for free up. Like, I’m talking about everything from Killer Army to the Seven Deadly Venoms, everything, like everything they had. I was incubated by hip- hop.”