Tristan Paul Mack Wilds was born on 15 July 1989 in New York. Tristan decided to become an actor when he was just a boy. He started performing at the age of seven.
In 2005, Wilds debuted in the drama series Miracle's Boys. He also appeared in the episodes of popular series Cold Case and Law & Order.
In 2006, Tristan landed his first role on the big screen. It was a small part in the drama Half Nelson, directed by Ryan Fleck. The leading role in the movie belonged to Ryan Gosling, who earned an Academy Award for his performance. The same year, Wilds appeared in several music videos, including "Roc Boys", "Teenage Love Affair," and "Ghetto Mindstate". Tristan also got a part in the TV series The Wire, in which, for 23 episodes, he portrayed a smart but poor student Michael Lee.
In 2007, together with Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Dakota Fanning, Tristan performed in the drama The Secret Life of Bees. The movie was very successful and received two People's Choice Awards. Wilds earned his first nomination as Breakthrough Performance at Black Reel Awards.