It’s an exciting time for Tristan Wilds. Back on television this week in the fourth season premiere of 90210 and preparing to launch a music career, he’ll appear in the movie Red Tails, the true story of the World War II Black combat bombers the Tuskegee Airmen.
In 90210’s opening episode, “everyone is back from summer vacations. My character, Dixon, went on tour with a hip hop band, played the roadie for a while. You get to see how it opened his mind,” says Wilds, who comes into conflict with his mother when he decides to put off college to work in the music biz. On that score, fiction follows fact as Wilds is pursuing his own musical ambitions. Before going back to the set, “I was in the studio, working on music — singing, rapping, writing poetry,” he says. “I’m thinking about releasing an EP, maybe seven songs, by the end of the summer.”
In January, Wilds joins Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard and Ne-Yo in the George Lucas-produced Red Tails, in which he plays Ray "Ray Gun" Gannon, a composite character and the youngest pilot in the Tuskegee Airmen. For research, he talked to surviving members including a relative. “My great-cousin was a Tuskegee Airman,” reveals Wilds, who got to ride in an actual WWII aircraft, which he calls “a thrill.” He learned that the Airmen were the only WWII unit never to lose a bomber, but they also had to put in four times as many practice hours than other pilots, because they were Black. But the extra training paid off: “I remember them telling us about the little games they used to play on the base,” says Wilds. “They’d put down a dime and see who could land on that dime. They literally could.”
For Wilds, “Doing the research and understanding everything that happened in that time period, it means a lot.” He hopes that the film will show audiences “that the Tuskegee Airmen were a huge, integral part of World War II. And I want the little Black kids to understand that we do have some real heroes to look up to. I think this movie is definitely going to be one of those things that I’m proudest of in my career.”
90210 premieres September 13 on the CW, and Red Tails opens January 20.
(Photo: Charley Gallay/GettyImages)