The upcoming film ‘Bazodee‘, which had its US premiere in August, and finally returns to its home in Trinidad & Tobago this month, brings fresh eyes to Trinbago’s culture, music and film industry in a way that may be long overdue. The film also brings together a cast of talented actors from all over the world. Amongst them is UK-based, Trini-born actor Valmike Rampersad, playing the film’s villain.
In an interview with The Trinidad and Tobago Performing Arts Network, Valmike revealed that although he has Trinidadian heritage, ‘Bazodee’ is only his second acting experience in the nation of his birth. It also marks his first real experience with the soca music that sets the tone for much of the film.
“I felt so proud to be a part of this experience! I learned so much more about my own Trini culture and got to experience soca properly for the first time. We even went to the all-night soca party to watch Machel perform…I had no idea soca could be so addictive.”
If no one else, Valmike is certainly convinced that ‘Bazodee’ serves as a good introduction to T&T’s cultural identity. “Anyone who hasn’t been to Trinidad and Tobago will gain insight into what the islands have to offer – the sun, sand and sea and the people,” according to Mr. Rampersad. It also gives a great introduction to soca music and the fun experiences that can be had at around Carnival.”
“I know this sounds cliche, but working on ‘Bazodee’ really was a dream come true,” Mr. Rampersad said, singing the praises of both the local and international crew working on the film, including US director Todd Kessler. Still, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging for him. He says, “I was given a character far removed from myself – the villain of the story! Playing that character was a brilliant challenge.”
One might say that his relationship with acting started off as an affair. He told the Performing Arts Network, “It started as a hobby at night school […] One night a week quickly turned into three nights a week, and then before I knew it I was applying to drama schools full time.” His family, though supportive, were at least a bit skeptical – “A few people thought I was crazy giving up a good day job,” – in Public Relations for Ralph Lauren, in case you were wondering. But he said that acting felt right, and he decided to follow his gut.
Having gotten into film abroad, Valmike noticed differences in the film industry between the UK and T&T. “I guess, given the cultural differences and opportunities, the approach is somewhat different. The whole setup is different, come to think of it. In the UK, most actors are represented by agents, for starters.” He also quickly saw the desire for more chances for Trinbagonian actors to grace the big screen.
“The Trinidadian actors who I have now become friends with did a great job on ‘Bazodee’. I know that they would like more opportunities for training and classes. I also know that they would like more opportunities to work on film. It is my hope that Bazodee will give Trinidad’s talent a platform to get more work.”
If you enjoy Valmike’s performance in ‘Bazodee’, there’s an upcoming local television project that may bring him back to Trinidad really soon. He was reluctant to say too much; “I tend not to talk about stuff until I actually start shooting, to be honest, my own paranoia!” he said. But according to him, he’s currently reading for “a very original gritty thriller drama.
The character they have created for me is very unlike any character I have previously played. You read so many TV scripts and often it’s just the usual stuff. This one really stands out, and it is great that it is based in Trinidad.”
It would’ve been remiss of us to end our chat without asking him, with his 7 years experience as an international actor, what tips he would have for upcoming actors. He advises,
“Try not to compare yourself to others, focus on your own work and keep learning. Every day on set is a learning experience. You learn from both cast and crew.”
‘Bazodee’ releases in Trinidad & Tobago on September 14th.