Edwards was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York City, New York, to Julia and Vincento Zoine, an Italian-American bricklayer. He and his twin brother, Anthony, were the youngest of seven children. He also studied aviation mechanics at East New York Vocational High School, graduating in June, 1945. He worked as a lifeguard at Coney Island and swam for the Flatbush Boys Club. He was a standout on his high school swim team, also playing on the school's baseball and track teams. He went on to study at Ohio State University on an athletic scholarship. He was part of the university's swim team that won the United States National Championships. After two years at Ohio State, he transferred to the University of Hawaii where he spent much time training as a Swimmer for the Olympics. He was also involved in theater productions.
Edwards studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; his classmates included Anne Bancroft, John Cassavetes, and Grace Kelly. In 1950, he was signed to a contract by Paramount Pictures, making his film debut as "Vincent Edwards" in 1951's Mister Universe and then played the lead actor the following year in Hiawatha. Although he had major or lead roles in several films, including the film noirs The Killing (1956) and Murder by Contract (1958), it was not until he was featured in the title character on the highly successful Ben Casey television series that he achieved a level of stardom. The medical drama show, which he occasionally directed, ran from 1961 to 1966. As a result of the show's and his own popularity, Edwards also released several music albums and appeared in the all-star war film The Victors in 1963. He was represented by one of Hollywood's first "super agents", Abby Greshler of Diamond Artists in Hollywood.
When the Ben Casey television series ended, Edwards returned to acting in motion pictures with a major role in the 1968 war drama The Devil's Brigade, together with films such as Hammerhead (1968), The Desperados (1969), and The Mad Bomber (1973). In 1983, he played the main protagonist, Hawk, in the sci-fi film Space Raiders. He continued to act in film as well as in guest spots on television, including roles in The Rhinemann Exchange (1977), Evening in Byzantium (1978), and the pilot episode of Knight Rider, Knight Of The Phoenix in 1982. He directed a number of episodes in a variety of television series including the original Battlestar Galactica. Some twenty-two years after the series ended, Edwards returned to television as Dr. Ben Casey in 1988. He made his last film, The Fear, in 1995. After the filming he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.