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Kreyolicious Interview: Benz Antoine, Actor

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Welcome to Part Two of my interview with Canadian-Haitian actor Benz Antoine. Antoine is an actor who’s juggled three different industries, the Canadian market, the film market in the USA, and has even starred in a Haitian movie or two. The award-nominated actor his represented in Canada by the prestigious agency Oscars Abrams Zimel and divides his time between Montreal and Los Angeles.

In the first part of our interview, he discussed his upbringing in Montreal. This time around, we go more in-depth in regards to his career, as well as his college years. CLICK HERE if you missed Part One, and read on if you’ve already read Part 1.

Kreyolicious: You attended Concordia University. Do you think going to college prepared you for real life?

I went to University and did ultimately land in the Theatre program at Concordia. I found the training I received to be very useful in many regards. It gave me the confidence
to be a true artist. The thing about acting though is that you are always learning and constantly changing. So to me, the best place to hone your craft is on the battlefield—if you are lucky enough to get there repeatedly as I have. Angela Basset has a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. Halle Berry does not. But who has the Oscar? My point is there is no right or wrong way to do this. Education is essential, but experience is equally as important.

Kreyolicious: How do you usually prepare for your roles?

My preparation is an on going process. I don’t overload myself with information that may or may not be useful. I try to pick things up everyday from anyone and anything. Every time I meet someone its an opportunity to learn something—to inject life into a new character. It could be a mannerism, an accent, a speech pattern, the way he wears his hat…if I like it, I’m stealing it, and adapting to the character of my choice. As an actor, you have to constantly ask questions but to me it makes no sense cramming all the info two-to-three weeks before shooting. To me, it’s a way of life.

Benz Antoine 19-2
Above: As Tyler Joseph in the Bravo Canada hit show “19-2”. [Photo Credit: Bravo Canada]

Kreyolicious: You were raised by a single-mom. Do you think she’s proud of whom her son has become?

She better be because ultimately that is what we all strive for; approval from our parents. I am only a few years away from retirement. I am set to retire in 2019, and after that, I will try to make her proud in all the other aspects of my life that I have been neglecting while chasing this Denzel guy. [Laughter]

Kreyolicious: If you could speak to an up-and-coming actor who has just won a small role from a first audition…what would you say to him about the road ahead?

Haha. Wow! I would tell him or her that if they are looking for a fast track to success, fame, fortune or anything like that; they have come to the wrong place. Although it is true that certain entertainers do make a healthy living, the amount of work, luck and patience involved is in mind-boggling. I have been chasing Denzel for 22 years, and it doesn’t appear that I’m any closer to my goal. A friend of mine once asked me why is it that people who need to be loved the most, enter into a business with the highest rate of rejection. And if they were still interested in pursuing a acting career, I would tell them to never let anyone tell them what they can and cannot do. Not even me.
Benz Antoine
Above: In a still from the film Another Silence.

Kreyolicious: What’s the difference between being an actor on a TV series, and an actor on a film?

I prefer being an actor who is working. If you make a list of how many traditional movie stars who are doing TV it would hard to deny that things have changed…Halle Berry, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Matthew McConaughey—to name a few. My overall approach doesn’t change whether I’m doing a TV show or a movie. However, I will concede that not every actor has what it takes to rule the big screen. There is an extra charm, a unique delivery, a certain je ne sais quoi that is required to become a movie star so I am on the lookout for the right opportunity to showcase what I’ve been practicing for over twenty years.
Benz Antoine actor
Above: Benz in a scene from the Sony Pictures film Ice Soldiers with fellow Canadians Camille Sullivan and Michael Ironside. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Intl

Kreyolicious: What’s next for you?

Writing. Producing. Directing! I love it ALL! I am actually making my directorial debut on a project that is very close to my heart called Dear Mr. President. It touches on the issue of police brutality that is constantly dominating the headlines in America.It’s time for each and everyone of us to step up and do our part if we really want to make a change.

[Main Photo Credit: Patrick Lamarche]

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Actor Benz Antoine On Growing Up Haitian-Canadian

Benz Antoine photo
Ever watch that film Romeo Must Die with Ving Rhames, Aaliyah, Isaiah Washington, and Jet Li? Do you recall a scene where a character’s head was dipped in a barrel of vicious crabs? That was Montreal-born actor Benz Antoine in one of his earliest USA film industry roles. Since then, the son of a Haitian immigrants has been in some of Hollywood biggest movies including Gothika, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and even TV movies like Betty and Coretta. In his home country Canada, he’s the award-nominated star of the popular detective show “19-2” on Bravo Canada, playing the ever astute character Tyler Joseph. Read on as we talk about his growing up as a Canadian of Haitian heritage, and of course, about his career.

Kreyolicious: You accompanied your girlfriend to an audition, and ended up auditioning yourself, and thus started your film career. When you’ve think of all you’ve done as an actor, what would you say has been the moment that defined you as an actor?

I honestly don’t think there is one moment. So many things have to go your way in order to accomplish all of the great things I have been able to over the course of my career. Certainly, dating that particular girl—at that precise time—was serendipitous. But then again, reading for a French cop show, having that run for three years. It becomes a cult hit with over two million viewers in Quebec alone. Get nominated as best supporting actor…the show gets translated into English. I end up being the only one who got selected again and then earn another nomination for the same role of Tyler Joseph. If I had read that in a script I wouldn’t have believed it…but it’s 100% True!

Kreyolicious: So you were born in Canada of Haitian parents. In Montreal, to be specific. What was it like growing up as a Canadian-Haitian?

I don’t think Canadians have the same nationalistic pride that Americans do. As a result, I grew up thinking I was more Haitian than Canadian. That was my environment. Those are the things I was connected to…the music, the food, the entire culture was second nature to me. Even though, to this day, I have never been to Haiti. There is a very large Haitian community in Montreal, so it’s very easy to make friends as long as you “proved” that you were really down. By the time I was fifteen, I was fluent in Creole. But, I saw countless others struggle to be accepted simply because their creole was weak. I understood at an early age that in order to be successful within any community you must not only frequent the community often. You also have be able to adapt—which I do very, very well!

Kreyolicious: Let’s talk about your show “19-2”, which airs on Bravo Canada. What’s it like on a shooting day?

Shoot days for me are happy days. You have a bunch of people ready to cater to your every need starting with what will you be having for breakfast, to getting dressed, makeup…hair, etc. What an amazing feeling to be paid to do something you love—and on top of that—they feed you! And all you have to do in return is play. Play with the words, play with costumes…you basically get to be a kid all over again! To me, it’s a dream come true. I have been doing this show for six seasons now—three in French and three in English. That place is like my second home. I am sure I will look back on this one day and realize that I am even luckier than I think I am!
Benz Antoine

Kreyolicious: How do you stay connected to Haitian culture? Have you been to Haiti?

I don’t actually feel the need to “stay connected”. I am always connected. Once while doing a scene for “19-2”—the French version—[the script called for me] to invite Ben Chartier—played by Claude Legault, one of the most famous people in Quebec—for a drink. When he refused I jumped at the opportunity to mention Barbancourt. My character told him on live TV with two million people watching that he could not refuse Barbancourt Rhum, especially if it’s a Five Star. Of course, all the white people on the set—and those watching—had no clue what just transpired, but Twitter exploded with pride over the fact that our rum was mentioned on national TV. I always envisioned that one day I would be the ambassador for Barbancourt! How’s that for connected [Laughter].

[Photography Credit: David Giral and Rob Daly]

Watch out for Part 2 of this interview. Meanwhile…

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE ACTOR’S TWITTER PAGE

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