edge

Man of Red, White, Black & Grey

by denise kruff

Harry Belafonte lookalike photograph courtesy Denice Duff. Still from MoG II by Mark Lyndersay.

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 Grey and Men of Grey 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 is 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!

When I was nine, my mother brought us to Baltimore after my parents divorced but I loved my childhood in Petit Valley. It has affected my whole life. When I started doing well in the US, I looked for that “Trini” neighbourhood: everybody together, everybody know everybody. You walk out your door and the neighbours are laughing with one another. It stuck with me since I was a child.

My mother 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. I knew how much he had always been scared of dying. Just the thought of him being in the hospital and dying alone makes me… But the funeral happened on Thanksgiving Day so we got to see it online as a family all at home together.

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 7am-4pm, doing acting school at night and working in a gas station from 11pm-6am. 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 Grey I. On a notepad, with a pen.

Brian Green, one of my students in Trinidad, was in theatre and got me to audition for a part in [Raoul Pantin’s play] Hatuey in Port of Spain. [Trinidad & Tobago Television jefe] Horace James hired me to do a TV version of Hatuey and a movie called Last Dance in the Sun, with Brenda Joy Fahey. I was writing the MoG script in the gas station booth and I called Horace and he said, “You finish that and I will give you everything you need to shoot the movie if you come back to do it in Trinidad.” So said, so done.

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 Grey. And was still rolling the dice with [2008 action film shot in Trinidad] Contract Killers!

Being in film production, acting, entertainment is great, from a job satisfaction perspective. It’s very similar to martial arts: it’s creative; it’s up to you to come up with things; and no two fights are the same. You got to come up with stuff like [snapping your fingers] and that’s what I enjoy the most. But it’s financially precarious.

To build your reel when you come to Hollywood, you do a LOT of student films. Then independent features. And, to me, an actor has got to be on stage. Around 2003, I decided to do Shakespeare. I just landed Richard II and I have a callback for Richard III and Love’s Labours Lost. It may be coincidence but, the moment I started doing Shakespeare , I started getting calls from studios! Shakespeare just does something to your soul.

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.

You have to keep certain key things at the back of your mind and one of mine was always, Hey, if I won $100M in a lottery, what would I do different tomorrow? My answer is, “Nothing!” If you can keep that in mind, it reminds you to always go after things you truly love. This life is over like a snap, man.

I don’t know if it’s politically correct to say it but I’m from Trinidad. I know ketch-ass. Covid is not ketch-ass. 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-ass 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 [Applewhite] and I 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 & 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 shoe box. 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.

I never, ever, think about regrets because every step, no matter how hard it might have seemed at the time, was always a step in the right direction. I could say, maybe I should have put more focus on being in front of the camera, acting, than producing. But I think I’ve finally found the balance between the two. I’m at about 60, 70 per cent of where I want to be.

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-to-six months to shoot the whole thing. As well as the third movie, we’re making a spinoff 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 frigging madness, these murders and shootings.

I couldn’t do what I’ve done if I’d remained in Trinidad. I tried! After Ibis, I got all the praise, got all the articles, got mobbed with the family when I went to the mall… But, where it mattered, the financial aspect, it was like I was begging all over again. If I’d done that in Hollywood! Flight of the Ibis wasn’t just big in Trinidad! It went right up all the Caribbean islands in cinemas. Ibis was on a UK channel a couple o’ years ago.

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 crap? You run a traffic light at three in the morning, you pay the price.

So BC Pires asks me if what I’m saying means G is a supporter of Double-G. I will say that the conceptual idea I have to get across is there has to be consequences for breaking even the small rules.

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’ve got to have an ideal. And Trinidad was my ideal. You’re outside riding your bike. Your mom & 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 & Tobago means: the perfection of life as beauty.

Man of Red, White, Black & Grey

by denise kruff

Harry Belafonte lookalike photograph courtesy Denice Duff. Still from MoG II by Mark Lyndersay.

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 Grey and Men of Grey 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 is 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!

When I was nine, my mother brought us to Baltimore after my parents divorced but I loved my childhood in Petit Valley. It has affected my whole life. When I started doing well in the US, I looked for that “Trini” neighbourhood: everybody together, everybody know everybody. You walk out your door and the neighbours are laughing with one another. It stuck with me since I was a child.

My mother 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. I knew how much he had always been scared of dying. Just the thought of him being in the hospital and dying alone makes me… But the funeral happened on Thanksgiving Day so we got to see it online as a family all at home together.

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 7am-4pm, doing acting school at night and working in a gas station from 11pm-6am. 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 Grey I. On a notepad, with a pen.

Brian Green, one of my students in Trinidad, was in theatre and got me to audition for a part in [Raoul Pantin’s play] Hatuey in Port of Spain. [Trinidad & Tobago Television jefe] Horace James hired me to do a TV version of Hatuey and a movie called Last Dance in the Sun, with Brenda Joy Fahey. I was writing the MoG script in the gas station booth and I called Horace and he said, “You finish that and I will give you everything you need to shoot the movie if you come back to do it in Trinidad.” So said, so done.

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 Grey. And was still rolling the dice with [2008 action film shot in Trinidad] Contract Killers!

Being in film production, acting, entertainment is great, from a job satisfaction perspective. It’s very similar to martial arts: it’s creative; it’s up to you to come up with things; and no two fights are the same. You got to come up with stuff like [snapping your fingers] and that’s what I enjoy the most. But it’s financially precarious.

To build your reel when you come to Hollywood, you do a LOT of student films. Then independent features. And, to me, an actor has got to be on stage. Around 2003, I decided to do Shakespeare. I just landed Richard II and I have a callback for Richard III and Love’s Labours Lost. It may be coincidence but, the moment I started doing Shakespeare , I started getting calls from studios! Shakespeare just does something to your soul.

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.

You have to keep certain key things at the back of your mind and one of mine was always, Hey, if I won $100M in a lottery, what would I do different tomorrow? My answer is, “Nothing!” If you can keep that in mind, it reminds you to always go after things you truly love. This life is over like a snap, man.

I don’t know if it’s politically correct to say it but I’m from Trinidad. I know ketch-ass. Covid is not ketch-ass. 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-ass 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 [Applewhite] and I 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 & 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 shoe box. 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.

I never, ever, think about regrets because every step, no matter how hard it might have seemed at the time, was always a step in the right direction. I could say, maybe I should have put more focus on being in front of the camera, acting, than producing. But I think I’ve finally found the balance between the two. I’m at about 60, 70 per cent of where I want to be.

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-to-six months to shoot the whole thing. As well as the third movie, we’re making a spinoff 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 frigging madness, these murders and shootings.

I couldn’t do what I’ve done if I’d remained in Trinidad. I tried! After Ibis, I got all the praise, got all the articles, got mobbed with the family when I went to the mall… But, where it mattered, the financial aspect, it was like I was begging all over again. If I’d done that in Hollywood! Flight of the Ibis wasn’t just big in Trinidad! It went right up all the Caribbean islands in cinemas. Ibis was on a UK channel a couple o’ years ago.

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 crap? You run a traffic light at three in the morning, you pay the price.

So BC Pires asks me if what I’m saying means G is a supporter of Double-G. I will say that the conceptual idea I have to get across is there has to be consequences for breaking even the small rules.

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’ve got to have an ideal. And Trinidad was my ideal. You’re outside riding your bike. Your mom & 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 & Tobago means: the perfection of life as beauty.