There are many Trinbagonians who work and thrive in the world of film and television. They have dedicated their talent and careers to the screen and the reel. Their stories are often unknown or seldom fully told. However, they can motivate, help to shape and create. Pauline Mark of The Trinidad and Tobago Performing Arts Network is excited to present “Reel Trini Tales”; a series of interviews, testimonials and stories of local audio visual players, movers and shakers.
I can remember being a child and hearing this myth of a young, talented Trini actor who went to Hollywood and made it big in the movies. That performer is G. Anthony Joseph, and after getting the story from the horse’s mouth, it is safe to say the urban legend does not do his experiences justice. Joseph never had any intention of becoming an actor; it was actually his love of martial arts that took him to the screen. However, his tale is one of reward, regret and renewal.
He was born and raised in the Petit Valley area and migrated to the United States (Baltimore, Maryland) at age eight, after a drastic change took place in his family’s dynamics. He did not fare well in his new environment and longed for his beloved Trinidad and Tobago. He was fortunate enough to return during the summer vacations for ten consecutive years; which strengthened his ties to his homeland. Back in the States he was initially bullied in school and got involved in physical activities like weight lifting to build strength and confidence. During this period he saw Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee. Feeling a profound sense of inspiration, G. told his mother he wanted to commit his life to martial arts.
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At the System Kung Fu school the future actor got a sense of purpose. He even achieved the highest rank in the discipline and returned to Trinidad to share his skills with his fellow citizens. Between 1981 and 1987 the thespian transformed St. Finbar’s Church into his martial arts studio for three nights a week. The school i.e. Tao ChuanFa Kung Fu Club (T.C.F), was the epicentre of his life, as he trained “over a thousand students” and even met his future wife.
He had what he terms “an ideal Caribbean life” and it was a fortuitous day, (circa the mid 1980’s) while viewing a Chuck Norris film, he bombastically proclaimed that he could do what the action star did. His fiancée was very supportive and saw the merit in his claim. She did research in terms of local acting opportunities and her efforts took the budding star to Beryl McBurnie’s studio in Woodbrook (now the Little Carib Theatre) where he trained with acting stalwart, Sonya Moze.
Accomplished local actor Brian Green (who was also one of Joseph’s Kung Fu students), was auditioning at the time for “Hatuey”; an original theatrical production, written by Raoul Pantin. Brian invited G. to participate in the auditions and he landed the role of the Priest, while Brian was cast as the title character and lead.
The legendary Bernard Hazel was also a cast member in the historic production, which was directed by Charles Applewhaite. Local audio visual visionair from TTT Horace James, saw the budding actor in the play and invited him to perform in his television adaptation, soon after. G.’s acting credits begun to increase and he was also cast opposite popular local actress of the day, Brenda Joy Fahey in the TV movie Last Dance in the Sun; also directed by Horace James.
Feeling confident about his potential and expanding creative résumé, G. confided in Green (one day after acting class) that he was ready to make the move to Hollywood. The fellow thespian was very supportive of the idea and encouraged him to go all the way. In September 1987, Joseph and his new wife sold all their belongings and headed to the City of Angels with approximately two thousand American dollars in hand. He was immediately thrown by the high cost of living and lack of public transportation. His sunny California dreams came to a jarring halt when it snowed in Malibu that year. Despondent, the actor was ready to return to Trinidad and Tobago. However, he found great solace and support in his wife, who encouraged him to stay. He started an acting class and did the routine odd job here and there to make ends meet. His tight schedule involved working at a gas station from eleven at night to six in the morning, then another job from 8 am to 5 pm, followed by acting classes, then back to the gas station.
Our talented son of the soil did this for five consecutive years. True diamonds are created under pressure and Joseph penned the first Men of Gray between pumping gas and catching up on his sleep.
Like any other fledgling actor in Los Angeles, G. appeared in student & independent films to build his repertoire. It was on the set of one of those films he met Ric Moxley. Moxley was an enthusiastic filmmaker / director who graduated from the University of Southern California’s film programme. Joseph remembers seeing legendary American Director, John Singleton screen his student films alongside Ric Moxley’s film in the same USC cinema screening room. Ric would play a pivotal role in G.’s career; as they forged a friendship and bought a Panasonic camera together to film the first Men of Gray. He returned to Trinidad in 1990 to shoot his film with a crew that comprised of himself, Ric and his wife, Ria. However, this was only the beginning.
To be continued……Be sure to read the next article on G. Anthony Joseph’s experiences in the film industry.
UP NEXT: REEL TRINI TALES: From Gray to Golden Pt. 2
EXCERPT: His career was literally on a roll and he began to land more speaking parts and featured extra gigs in the States. He also received his Screen Actors Guild card. However, the pull of his homeland was strong. “Industry people” began calling him back to the island; as they craved a part two to the hit movie…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pauline Mark is a Film Producer, Writer, Director and Actor who has been involved in entertainment, culture and the arts since 2003. She has appeared in noted Trinbagonian productions, including: Positive and Pregnant (2011), The Cool Boys (2012), Home Again (2012) and Bazodee (2015), and has been featured in many local and regional print and television advertisements.
Pauline has served as a content creator for state-media; co-producing and scripting two seasons of Wired 5.0 Carnival series. She also created, produced and directed X and Y TV series in 2016, and produced The Apartment: About Last Night pilot film in 2015, among other projects. A true patriot, Pauline continues to do work that promotes Trinbagonian culture, people and places.