- Photo Name
- Talent Name
- Tristen J. Winger
Born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles, Winger discovered his love for acting at a young age. He notes he was a “TGIF” kid, looking forward to Friday nights where he could tune in to “Family Matters” and see himself represented for the first time on television through Jaleel White and his on-screen character Steve Urkel. Winger attended the Amazing Grace Conservatory (AGC), where he was able to hone his craft in theater, bringing characters to life on stage. He went on to attend the King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, where he became friends with Issa Rae (who would eventually give him his first big break with “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”), graduating one year early. While Winger initially thought he would pursue a career in the medical field, even studying science, math and engineering at California State University Northridge, the performing arts kept calling his name. He dabbled in music production and audio engineering, learning to produce and make music while in college, and took a few retail jobs while he auditioned for acting projects in Los Angeles. While working at the Apple store he landed one of his first big jobs on “Insecure,” and he has been booking film and television projects ever since.
On television, Winger has played a variety of characters that come from many different backgrounds. He is best known for his role as Thug Yoda on the award-winning series “Insecure” from creator/writer/producer Issa Rae. His other credits include “Bigger,” “East of La Brea,” “50 Central,” “Almost 30,” and his first big break, comedy web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” opposite Issa Rae, which debuted on YouTube in 2011.
Winger’s feature film credits include Tripp in the short film “The Hostage,” which was accepted into the Nantucket Film Festival. Winger also appeared in the award-winning short “Baldwin Beauty,” which went to the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and was nominated for Short Film Grand Jury Prize and Best Short Film. The project was also nominated for a NAACP Image Award in 2020 for Outstanding Short Form (Live Action).
Winger frequently lends his voice to projects. He voiced multiple characters in the highly popular PlayStation 5 video game “Horizon: Forbidden West.” Recently, he starred in the podcast “We Stay Looking” (six episodes), which was produced by HBO Max. The podcast was nominated at the 2022 Ambies for Best Scriptwriting, Fiction and secured back-to-back wins at the 2021 and 2022 Webby Awards in the Podcasts - Scripted (Fiction) (Limited-Series & Specials) category.
Winger is passionate about giving back to his community and bringing awareness to the growing food insecurity issues in South L.A. Winger is also an advocate for shining a light on the stigma around mental health and lack of adequate mental health resources for Black men, as he has been on a personal journey through therapy and building deeper, meaningful relationships with others, and himself. For years, Winger has championed the Amazing Grace Conservatory where he got his start, supporting emerging artists and at-risk youth in the performing and digital arts by offering a well-rounded and culturally enriching educational program in an environment that is nurturing for their personal, artistic and professional growth.
Currently, Winger lives in South-Central L.A. with his rescue dog, a Yorkiepoo named Frito. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @tristenjwinger.