AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is G Anthony Joseph and I made the movies BC Pires calls the two best cop movies ever made in Trinidad.
It means a lot to me that BC Pires really does think that my films Men of Gray and Men of Gray II: Flight of the Ibis are the best two local cop movies.
Even if he immediately goes on to point out that they’re the only two local cop movies ever made.
MoG III will be produced soon.
My wife Ria and I will be married 34 years on 25 April. And I still chase her around the house! You got to love Trini women.
Our daughter Jamie is 25. Our son Justin, 29, is married to Jenna, and our grandson Ayden is 22 months old!
When I was nine, my mother brought us to Baltimore after my parents divorced.
She worked as a secretary during the day, had an hour or two at home in the evening, then went to work as a waitress. She did that for nine years. She moved to Denver with my sisters when I was 17.
I was doing martial arts and my goal was to go back to Trinidad and open the first kung fu school. So I lived on my own in Baltimore until I got my black belt at about age 20.
My mom is 84, retired in Maine, very active.
My dad’s sudden death last October was a shock to everybody but made worse by us not being able to go to Trinidad because of covid.
He had always been scared of dying.
I miss my dad terribly. He supported me from day one, when everyone was telling me I was crazy.
Aged 20, I opened my kung fu school in a backyard in St James.
Later, at my St Finbar’s school, Ria was one of my students. We got married around 1987 and around ’88, we left Trinidad for Hollywood. It was starting – and struggling – all over again.
I wanted to make that shift to entertainment. I was working a day job 7 am-4 pm, doing acting school at night and working in a gas station from 11 pm-6 am.
Gas stations back then didn’t have those big convenience stores, just a one-man booth in the middle of the pumps. And it was there that I wrote Men of Gray I. On a notepad, with a pen.
The first MoG crew was director Ric Moxley, my wife Ria and me. Just the three of us. We had some savings. We had some credit cards. And that’s how the first movie got done.
I rolled the dice with Men of Gray. And was still rolling the dice with (2008 action film shot in Trinidad) Contract Killers!
It makes me laugh to remember that Mark Lyndersay, the Trini to D Bone photographer, was in MoG II!
He was the cop I punched when I got to the top of the stairs. I can’t believe now that we credited him as “Fat Cop”!
I’ll get ready to get cancelled.
I don’t know if it’s politically correct to say it, but I’m from Trinidad. I know ketch-a-s. Covid is not ketch-a-s. Okay, I have to wear a mask to go buy groceries – but I still have water in my pipe! Shut up and find another creative way to do your job. Adults (shouldn’t be) babied.
On the flip side, I experienced the real ketch-a-s of covid with my dad and nobody should go through that.
Shooting the first MoG taught me a lot of lessons but the big one is: Keep Things Simple!
There is a long dolly shot coming down a hallway in the stadium, with (co-star) Charles (Applewhaite) and me arguing, the camera pulling back in front of us as we walk down the hallway.
Listen: Ric was sitting on a gurney from the stadium’s first aid centre with the camera in his hands and the microphone on his head and Ria was pulling him backwards.
I wouldn’t want to shoot MoG II again.
My acting career was just starting to take off in LA but we put all of our stuff in storage and went to Trinidad for six months. Which ended up being nearly eight years.
We lost nearly everything in America.
After three years in Trinidad, we had to move back in with Dad.
I was more than ready to leave. The funding had been kind of in place…until we got to Trinidad. That’s how it goes.
I remember sitting on my father’s steps, a young man, wife and child, accustomed to being independent, feeling like a nobody, thinking I should just pack up and go.
My father walked up and handed me a shoebox. With most of his retirement money in it. He said, “Go make your movie.”
I said, “Dad, if you believe in me that much, I cannot take your money, but I will keep trying.”
Eventually, I told my kung fu students I was going back to the States because the funding for the film just wasn’t coming.
One student said his uncle might help. For a year and a half, this uncle had me come twice a week and sit on his porch and explain the film business to him.
One day, he handed me a cheque for the entire budget and said, “You sat on my porch every week for 18 months. If you had the tenacity to do that, I know you’re going to finish this movie!”
I won’t name him, because he did not even want his name in the credits, and he’s dead now. But he was a real man.
Because of covid, when I come to Trinidad to do MoG III, I have to come with everybody involved as a group, create a bubble at the Hilton and stay for four-six months to shoot the whole thing. As well as the movie, we’re making a TV series. The pilot is already completed and a director attached.
We’re trying to decide now when that six-month window could be.
I can’t say too much about it. But I need to do something to address (Trinidadians) about where we are, what’s causing this (crime). MoG III will be my contribution to stop this f---ging madness, these murders and shootings.
Back in the 80s, I told my kung fu class that, if we didn’t take note of the little things now, in 15 to 20 years, Trinidad is going to be the wild, wild West. Recently, one of those students told me they all went outside and laughed at me. But, he said, nobody’s laughing now.
You have to police the little things. You cannot have somebody peeing at the side of a building. There has got to be a consequence when a rule is broken.
If you can pee on the side of the road, what’s next? You walk into the neighbour’s yard and take a c--p? You run a traffic light at three in the morning, you pay the price.
The question, “What is a Trini?” is the answer to its own question. It’s not, how does it feel to be a black Trini? Or an Indian, Chinese or Caucasian Trini.
And that is the message Trinidad has for the world. It ent about how fat or thin or what race you are. You have no label other than Trini.
So the answer is in the question.
Perfection cannot be attained in the world. But perfection was growing up in Trinidad. You’re outside riding your bike. Your mom and dad liming with friends on the porch. Frank Sinatra and calypso music playing. Nobody keeping score about who do what for who.
I don’t know how we got that. But the whole world can be like that. And that, to me, is what Trinidad and Tobago means: the perfection of life as beauty.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com