WHEN Trinidad-born actor/producer Gerard Anthony Joseph talks about his latest movie project, Men of Gray III, it’s impossible not to trigger memories of nearly 30 years ago when the first Men of Gray movie was released.
It was September 5, 1990, just about two months after the Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt. At the time, it seemed fortuitous to have an uplifting, locally-made, action-packed, police movie to buoy everyone’s spirit.
Now, in these trying times with escalating crime, Joseph is ready to shoot Men of Gray III: Liberty in the Fires, a stand-alone movie, which also fits comfortably in a cinematic trilogy. In between these two movies came Men of Gray II: Flight of the Ibis.
“Men of Gray III got put on hold for the longest while because I wanted something more than an action story,” Joseph said.
He had come to Trinidad to lead an acting workshop sponsored by Pauline Mark and the Trinidad & Tobago Performing arts Network the weekend of April 27, and Men of Gray, the current crime situation and his acting journey were on his mind.
“The story is about what we can become and what we will continue to become if we don’t change. It’s a dramatic story – a semi-true account of Trinidad.”
But Joseph wanted more than an action movie. When the script began circulating for critical reviews, one comment stood out in his mind.
“The review said this was a thinking man’s film more along the lines of Heat and Inception, but it has action. That’s exactly what we wanted.”
The challenge was always how to translate the concept into a script and then to the screen. That process takes time and involves many changes. Pre-production work takes far longer than production. Joseph kept perfecting the script.
“I love Trinidad, and the more I kept hearing about crime, the more I kept thinking about what to do.
“My voice has always been film. Because people were already familiar with the Men of Gray films, I felt this was the way to go.”
The film, which contrasts the relatively newly-independent and hopeful country of TT with an evolving crime-ridden world both beyond and within the island, is about a month away from wrapping up pre-production. The shoot in Trinidad will take about 45 days, and the end result, Joseph hopes, will make a lasting impression on people.
Living in San Diego, California, near Mexico, means Joseph is familiar with the challenges of borders in today’s volatile world, and those observations will undoubtedly find their way into the film.
But there is more to Joseph than Men of Gray films. He has appeared on PBS and CBS in US television series like JAG and American Family, along with films like Contract Killers and Backlash. It is not unusual to see him on the stage, either. His passion is Shakespeare.
“I love being on stage. I love the language and the research, the process of discovery in rehearsal, and the need to have a 17th-century dictionary to find the original meaning of Shakespeare’s language and then convey that meaning to the audience.
“I love that process more than acting on TV. The stage is instant gratification.”
Although it might seem acting comes easily to Joseph, he debunks that notion without hesitation.
“Actors are often taught to dig deep within themselves to some past event that can evoke some emotion – like anger or sadness. But I grew up in a nice, happy Trinidadian family.”
His sister Lynn has made her mark in writing children’s books and Young Adult (YA) novels.
“I was always more logical than emotional, so I didn’t have that reservoir of emotion to draw from when I act. It was hard for me.
GERARD cotinues on Page 24B
I read a lot of self-help books.
“Then I had an instructor who told me to understand the history of the character that I was playing. Where did he come from? What was he about to do? That did it for me.”
G Anthony Joseph, as he bills himself, took many chances on his creative road, and they paid off – with a lot of hard work and a supportive family, including his wife Ria, daughter Jamie and son Justin.
He laughs when he recalls taking last-minute Shakespeare roles and rehearsing with Justin, who sits in the audience miming everyone’s lines.
“Acting has given me a voice. I have a body of work to prove what I’m saying.”
Outside acting, Joseph still keeps in touch with his Kung Fu students, both in Trinidad and in the US. Kung Fu played a big part in his life. He enjoys visiting schools in the US, where he talks about coming from a small country and making it in the acting business.
“Seeing the faces of those kids who begin to realise they have a chance in life to achieve their dreams when they look at this short foreign guy is amazing.”
After all this time and all his success abroad, Joseph still finds his heart is in TT, and that, above all is what moviegoers will likely see in Men of Gray III.