JAMAICAN ON A MISSION: Lyriq Bent
He remembers growing up in Clarendon as if it were yesterday. Building dirt cars in only his brief with his friends is one of his fondest memories. Lyriq Bent, who plays Lieutenant David Rigg in Lionsgate's horror movie franchise Saw II, III and IV, also vividly recollects the fudge man who used to sell ice-cream treats for the neighbourhood kids. At six years old, he migrated with his family to Canada but his heart had never given up on Jamaica. The easygoing actor said he is 100 per cent Jamaican and often taps into childhood memories to keep him centred and motivated. These days, Bent calls Los Angeles home where a number of his roles were created. His multiple guest-starring roles and other personal projects keep him very busy. Most recently, Bent has guest-starred in TV shows such as CSI Miami with David Caruso, UPN's Kevin Hill with Taye Diggs and USA's Kojak opposite Ving Rhames. Bent can also boast starring opposite heavyweights Mark Wahlberg and Andre 3000 in John Singleton's mega-successful film, Four Brothers. The Saw franchise pulled in over a billion dollars in ticket sales overall and Bent feels quite accomplished to be part of an ensemble that is largely responsible for the film's worldwide success. SO tracked him down at his LA pad where he was working on his social network site looklikeyou.com while on hiatus from filming ABC's Rookie Blue, which will resume production in August.
Heather Elliott: The name Lyriq is quite unusual. How did that name come about?
Lyriq Bent: I was born with that name right there in Jamaica, believe it or not. My father had a lot of family members who were musicians so I think that may have had something to do with it. What is interesting to me is that women tell me they have named their children after me. You have little girls right now with the name Lyriq and I find it quite honourable. In my mind, I am their father.
HE: You decided to take up acting as a result of a dare between you and a co-worker. Tell me about that.
LB: LOL! I was in my last year of college and my job at the time was downsizing so I was let go. I was broke and needed money and the only other option that was available to me at the time was selling long-distance door to door. I was never one to socialise too much or wear the biggest smile on my face, but everywhere I went during this gig, people kept asking me if I was an actor or a model. A co-worker who was always with me on the route kept encouraging me to go see an acting coach he knew. I told him that the only way I would go is if he made more money than me that day. Turns out he did and this is where I am today. I have never looked back.
HE: What was your first acting gig?
LB: My first acting role was in a movie called Relic Hunter. I didn't even have to speak English as the character was an African jungle guard. All I did was stand in a corner, jump around and yell African sounds. Lol! I can't tell you how I felt when I got the call for that role. It was as if I had won the lottery or something.
HE: You've done quite a bit of work — even more so than some famous actors have done in a while, but you've managed to remain very low-key. Is that intentional?
LB: Yes! I don't like intrusion. I love to live my private life below the radar. I don't like people in my business all the time. The fame comes with the territory; however, I am more about my business, living my life and getting my bills paid.
HE: You are most recognised for your role as Lieutenant Daniel Rigg in the Saw movie Franchise. What was it like making that movie?
LB: Lieutenant Daniel Rigg was not the original role I auditioned for. I didn't get the part I wanted and I was terribly disappointed. My agent called and told me they had instead offered me the role of Daniel Rigg, a cop who hardly speaks throughout the film. I was pissed off, to say the least. Being passed over from an engaging character to one that would not say much didn't sit too well with me. What I didn't realise was that this Daniel Rigg's character would be in 80 per cent of the film. I said no initially, but after sleeping on it, I took my ego out of the way and did what I had to do. Turns out it was one of my most memorable film experiences as an actor. The cast was great. Even though it was a morbid, scary film in theatres, I had an amazing time filming with the cast and crew. It was a really fun set.
HE: Who do you hang out with and what do you do in your spare time?
LB: I don't hang out with a lot of people really. I play a lot of golf and spend my down time working on my social network, prepping for roles and rehearsing lines. Golf is that one thing that keeps me grounded, though. It's like acting; you have this one chance to make an impact and do something great. That motivates me.
HE: Who do you admire most in the industry and why?
LB: I didn't have a TV growing up in Jamaica. Movie theatres didn't exist in my world, so I had no role model in film, no one I wanted to be like. Acting came very late in my life and I just have a genuine passion for the craft and a profound respect for actors in general and the people who are involved in the industry. I respect the business of acting and filmmaking, but I have no one per se who I look up to as a mentor.
HE: What projects are you working on right now?
LB: We just wrapped on a movie called Home Again about three Jamaicans who were deported from the US, the UK and Canada. I played the deportee from the US. What was incredibly disappointing to me was that a film about Jamaicans had to be shot in another country because the producers couldn't get the film started in Jamaica due to tardiness from the powers that be. No one returned phone calls or e-mails and we were up against time and when you have a budget in place, booked actors and production crew, time is of the essence. Trinidad and Tobago was receptive to us and we ended up shooting the film there. My experience in T&T was superb, though. After filming there for a while, I got to know and love the place. I am still so disturbed that Jamaica gave us the cold shoulder. The film has received great reviews so far and will do very well when released. Jamaica could have benefited more from that.
HE: What would be your dream role?
LB: To play Martin Luther King, Jr and also to be the front-runner to play Marcus Mosiah Garvey. I love Marcus Garvey and what he stands for. That's why I have spent the last few years researching the man and his work. I have a video online now of me depicting Garvey in a conversation piece. I am sure I am the best person to play Marcus Garvey.