Quick Stats: Ricky Whittle, actor
Daily Driver: 2006 Range Rover (Ricky's rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: England to Scotland
Car he learned to drive in: 1980s Peugeot 205
First car bought: 2006 Dodge Ram
British actor Ricky Whittle has only been in America for a year and a half, but he's already become a regular on VH1's "Single Ladies." He was also cast with Keri Russell, Jane Seymour, and Bret McKenzie in "Austenland," which played to sold-out crowds at last month's Sundance Film Festival.
One of the only bummers for Whittle about leaving the U.K. was having to sell his dream car, a 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo. Whittle loves to talk fondly about the cars he's owned. And in this case, he's had quite a few loves. Whittle's many automotive flings are rooted in his belief in living with no regrets and only regretting what you don't do.
He absolutely loves living in sunny southern California, and for now his daily driver is a 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged, which he calls a "stopgap" until he can figure what he wants to acquire later. He rates it an 8 out of 10.
"When it works, it's definitely an 8. When it doesn't work, it's a pain in the bum and I seem to have a few problems with it at the moment," Whittle says. "It's like a dog chasing its tail. When one thing goes wrong, I fix that, and something else goes wrong, and I end up fixing that. But once it's all fine and everything's running well, it's a comfortable ride. It's supercharged. It's very fast."
Whittle says in Los Angeles it's better to have an SUV because of the many unpredictable potholes in streets. "The roads are so bad, so you're feeling all the bumps if you're in a sports car. I know if I was in my previous sports cars, I'd have probably rimmed my car a lot, damaged the alloys or maybe got flat tires because of low-profile tires. It's probably good to have a 4X4 in this city. There's some crazy drivers here," he says with a laugh.
When British friends visit, they ask Whittle what it's like to drive in L.A. "I say, 'Stay sharp.' So I feel a little bit safer in a bigger car."
And like many in this car-choked city, Whittle prefers to drive, even when he can walk to the store around the corner. "I refuse to walk to it. I'm terrible. They say that no one walks in L.A. and it's definitely true and I'm embracing that."
He chose the Range Rover after trying a few different cars. "I was going to go old school and go for a classic. I'm a big fan of old, classic American musclecars like a Shelby GT or the '69 Dodge Charger, cars that inspired me through my childhood," he says. "They used to get me real excited when I was a kid. To own one and actually be able to drive them in America is a little of a dream. They've just got a different sound, a different look. They really are meaty and aggressive cars compared to the U.K."
2010 Chevrolet Corvette
When he got to America, he likened the process of choosing cars to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. "I came here and thought, 'I want an American car.' I'm just a big kid; I get excited. That's probably the one thing in life that I get really excited about is cars," he says.
Although he didn't lease an old musclecar, he did try a 2010 Corvette. He says there was limited visibility and it wasn't a good fit for a man over 6 feet tall.
"For a tall person it's a really bad car. When you're looking for signposts and things, you have to duck because the windscreen is just not large enough. It's too low," he says. "You've got to look underneath the roof. Looking around, there a lot of blind spots, and the bottom kept scuffing on ramps and curves. I really didn't like it."
He kept the 'Vette for a month. "There was a delay in the accelerator, which was very frustrating," he says. "I didn't want to step foot in that again. I really didn't like it."
Before the 'Vette, Whittle tried the Hummer H2. "I thought what symbolizes America more than the Mustang, the Hummer, Harley-Davidson," he says. "And I settled for the Hummer."
He had that for a few months until he moved to an apartment where the parking space was too small. "I liked it. It just didn't fit in the garage and then I found out they weren't making them anymore. I thought I might have problems sourcing parts when things go wrong, so I thought the better of it and searched for another car and got an American classic Corvette," he says. "The Hummer was too big for the garage, the Corvette was too low -- it kept scuffing on the ramps. So I've settled for baby bear, the Range Rover. It was just right."
Whittle thought it best on his finances to lease the cars since he didn't know what he wanted to drive.
2006 Lamborghini Gallardo
While he's settled on the Range Rover for now, it's definitely not his 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo. He had to sell that car after owning it for four years. "It was probably the toughest thing I ever had to do," he says. "I thought about shipping her over -- and I speak of her as a lady because I'm that passionate about my little baby girl. It would have ended up costing me $20,000 to transport it to the States and I would have to get it specified to American standards. So it worked out best to just sell it back in the U.K. I didn't lose too much on that because I sold it to a soccer player and soccer players are known for paying over the odds because they don't care. I found a very gullible soccer player who was happy to pay over the odds."
British fans of Whittle have seen his Lamborghini in the BBC TV series "Candy Cabs," in which he played a soccer star and producers let him drive his own car on camera.
"I think they were trying to get me to drive me a Mercedes and I said a footballer wouldn't drive that unless I had a family, and my character didn't have family. He was a single man and single soccer players are definitely flamboyant and like their sports cars," he says. "So it ended up on screen on the BBC. It had quite a lot of screen time, almost as much as me."
He's thinking about buying another one. "Ideally I'm probably going to buy another Lamborghini because that really was the best drive I've ever had," he says.
Growing up in England, Whittle was influenced by American movies and television and that is where his car fantasies came from.
"Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted the Lamborghini from 'Cannonball Run,' do you remember, with Burt Reynolds?" he says. "I was hoping the two girls in the Lycra jumpsuits were going to come with the Lamborghini. But I used to love the Lamborghini from those films. I was in awe of it. I used to have posters all over my room. I remember 'Rain Man' with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman with all the Lamborghinis being lifted off the tanker. I was obsessed with this car. Absolutely obsessed with this car. It was my dream and to finally drive one and own one was incredible."
"I saw it on MTV and P. Diddy driving it and I didn't have a clue what it was," he recalls. "I was like, 'What is that? That looks amazing!'" So after researching it, he bought one.
"It was impractical. I couldn't keep that car because there's no space to put anything in," he says. "So if I needed to go anywhere, my luggage would have to go in the spare seat and if I had company, the luggage would have to go on the person's lap. When you're thinking the Lamborghini has way more trunk space, you know the Prowler must have no space at all."
While the Prowler was great fun to drive, he only kept it for seven months. "I'm very spontaneous," he says, with a chuckle.
"I always believe that if you like something, go for it. You only live once; you only regret the things you don't do. They end up being great stories. There's no such thing as mistakes, only lessons. As long as we learn from our so-called mistakes, then we're fine. And I learned these weren't the cars for me," he says. "I learned that maybe I will go through a Lamborghini again, but it has to be practical. It has to be right, and right now the Range Rover is the right car for me in L.A. It's got space for friends and family when they come and visit and it can store a lot of stuff and it's comfortable."
People used to call his Prowler the Batmobile because it was black with black tinted windows. "It's just a strange car, especially in the U.K. I like unique cars that people don't have."
First Car Bought
Speaking of exclusivity, Dodge Rams aren't usually seen on U.K. streets. "In America, you see a Dodge Ram every five seconds," he says. "But in the U.K. people looked at me like I was crazy because it's far too big for the roads and people were like, 'Why are you driving that monster?' But I drive it because no one else is. I just like driving strange cars."
When Whittle was a working actor and but he couldn't yet afford the Lamborghini, he bought his second dream car, a 2006 Dodge Ram, also inspired by his youth.
"My youth was dominated by 'Knight Rider' and 'The Fall Guy,'" he says. "I always wanted a pickup truck. Maybe I was watching the 'Fall Guy' and he was doing all these stunts and jumping over things in a pickup truck. There's pickup trucks in the U.K. but if you're going to go for one, then you want to go for one of the best ones. And what better than the monster that is the Dodge Ram? It's pure American beef."
"It really did look fantastic," he continues. "I fell in love the first time I saw it. I was looking on the Internet and this one came up and when I saw it I fell in love. I didn't care what it cost or any problems with the car. I just wanted it."
Whittle says when he first saw the Ram, it was almost like a scene in a movie. "It was a sunny day, which is very rare in England," he says. "The sun was shining; he just had it washed. It was sparkling; the alloys were glistening. It was like 'Wayne's World.' It was slow motion. I could hear music. It was a beautiful moment."
But in England, even the Dodge Ram was expensive. "But I always believe in buying what you want. Why keep upgrading?" he says. "Everything is expensive in the U.K. We pay $10 dollars for the gallon and that's just for gasoline. We probably pay a good few extra grand over there on cars. It's actually cheaper to buy them in America then ship them over to the U.K. than to buy it in the U.K."
Car he learned to drive in
Whittle learned to drive just outside of London in his mom's late 1980s model Peugeot 205.
"My dad took me out into this long stretch of farmland and it was a straight road and I could not stay straight," he says. "He said, 'Just stay straight and drive to the end.' He was trying to teach me gears. The majority of the U.K. is manual, so everyone has to drive stick, and he was trying to teach me clutch control and how to go through the gears and because I was concentrating so much on trying to get my gears and clutch, I kept swerving all over the place."
After a couple lessons with his dad and eight lessons from a driving school, he passed his driving test.
"I'm now an official American because I'm far too lazy to change gears," he says. "I love the automatic. I'm such a lazy driver. It's nice to have hands free and foot free, it's like a go kart, you've got 'stop' and you've got 'go.' I can eat a hamburger while I'm driving and I don't even have to worry about the gears. It's perfect."
Favorite road trip
"My favorite road trip is a 2:30 a.m. trip to the drive-thru when you've got the munchies after a night out," he says. "I don't know why, but food tastes so good at the end of the night when you know you shouldn't be eating. Just go home and sleep, but no, you have to go and have that dodgy burger, kabob or a pizza, or something that's not good for your insides."
But aside from fast food runs, a favorite road trip is the drive in his old Lamborghini on the M6 up to Scotland.
"It was a three-hour drive from England to Scotland. It starts off on some big long motorways, so when there's no one around you can really open it up," he describes. "You get a lot of speed and try and keep it safe, but you're having fun. Once you get more towards Scotland, it turns into windy roads."
He enjoys the drive because it's about feeling the power and yet control of the Lamborghini. "Obviously when you're driving a performance sports car, it's nice to feel that grip on the road and, then you're weaving through these countryside roads. It's the reason you buy a car like that," he says. "Every now and then you might get scared by a tractor that comes out from the field from nowhere. Scotland is a large area and a lot of it is farmland. It's a beautiful country with beautiful people -- it's just too cold."
"Austenland" and VH1's "Single Ladies"
Whittle worked on a soap called "Hollyoaks" as well as "Strictly Come Dancing," which is the U.K. version of "Dancing with the Stars." He came to America with no guarantee of work.
"People said I was crazy to move -- I've got a good life, good money, prospects, everything going for me. And I said, 'It's not enough. Satisfaction is the death of desire.' That's a saying I use today. Be grateful for what you've got."
While grateful, as an actor he felt he reached a plateau. "I was being offered jobs every day by my agent in the U.K. for roles that were very profitable," he says. "I've been financially very well-off or I could have done so many different shows where I could have been an even bigger name. But that wasn't what I was after. I think if you ask anyone what their favorite TV shows in the U.K. are, they'll say 'Entourage,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Breaking Bad.'"
He likes the American attitude towards making TV and movies. "You give 100 percent into the industry out here, whereas in the U.K. they're scared to lose money, especially when the recession hit a few years ago. Productions are unwilling to put a large amount of money into projects, whereas in America, it's, 'Ah, hell with it! Let's make it the biggest and the best we can and if it works, it works.'"
Whittle has become a convert of his new adopted home. "I love that inspiring attitude that America has. It's very positive and it really is apparent if you've been to both countries. America really does have this fantastic attitude, this positivity that exudes from all of you guys, whether it's waiters, garage attendants, not just actors, producers," he says. "The country as a whole is a very positive place. There's another reason why I love it. My only problem in the morning is, 'What color shorts do I wear?' It's sunny everyday and everyone is smiley and happy. So why would I not want to live here? I'm just annoyed that I didn't move here sooner."
Right after he moved to America, Whittle booked his first movie, "Austenland," produced by the writer of "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer.
"And what did they do? They sent me back to the U.K. to shoot this," he says. "I just moved to L.A., I got all excited, I booked this film, it's the producers of 'Twilight' and 'Napoleon Dynamite' and they said, 'Your part is going to be filmed just outside of London.'" I was literally 40 minutes from my two best friends. They were like, 'So, you're back then.'" I was like, 'Yup.' It's all good."
"Austenland," featured at Sundance last month, is a romantic comedy featuring Kerri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Oscar winner Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, and Jane Seymour. "It's a great cast; it's very funny," he says.
Whittle also booked what was supposed to be just two episodes on VH1's "Single Ladies," which was picked up for Season 3 and airs later this year. Producers liked Whittle and his chemistry with Denise Vasi so much that he ended up staying for all 10 episodes, leaving audiences with a cliffhanger at the end of Season 2.
"I guess people will want to know what happens to Raquel and Charles, because we left the end of Season 2 where I was about to leave the city with my new girlfriend and Raquel confesses her love to me, so I'm stuck between two women and who do I go with?" he says. "So Season 3 is obviously going to hold the answers to my final decision."
Whittle also has a large following on Twitter, with more than 130,000 followers.
"I'm having a great time and I've been very blessed, so just keep positive, keep smiling," he says. "You reap what you sow and if you give out all this good energy, it eventually comes back to you and I'm going to keep on smiling, keep positive and just enjoy the ride. You don't regret things you don't do. As long as I keep having fun, it could all end tomorrow, but at least I had fun doing it today."