Interview with Benz Antoine
speaks on being a Canadian Black actor, the cancellation of the dramatic
series, Blue Murder, and one his
latest upcoming projects The Maple Leaf
that focuses on Canadaís identity crisis.
is also working on an
upcoming release of his short
entitled Decorating 101
21 Questions about Men Women &
Benz first realized that he had caught the acting bug, while ironic, when he
shooting a music video for a rap group called
signed to MCA. When passers-by asked if the set was a movie shoot, it
struck him. People thought he was an actor in a movie. And heís never
Securing a role on Global's recently cancelled
Blue Murder as Det. Jim Weeks makes
Benz a recognizable face in the Canadian landscape. His other credits
include a part in Romeo Must Die
with Jet Li and the late Aaliyah; Gothika
starring Halle Berry; and in the TV-movie Icebound,
starring Susan Sarandon.
Blue Murder has recently been cancelled. I thought this was a successful
Somebody said that there wasnít an audience for Blue Murder and a journalist
was quoted as saying ďyeah like four people were watchingĒ. Thatís the
attitude right there. Regardless of whether
the show is wack or not, that
should not be your position. Your position should be a comment on what is
happening and in a more positive light. It doesnít help the industry for
Blue Murder to be cancelled.
Who do you hold responsible for Blue Murder being cancelled?
I think the real reason has nothing to do with Blue Murder or Global or
anybody. Itís the attitude that we have as Canadians from the onset. Iím
actually doing a documentary on this Ė itís called
The Maple Leaf. My premise is that
every one of us has an imaginary invisible tattoo of a maple leaf on our
foreheads. And we act accordingly. In other words, we always give it up
that we are Canadian. Not in ways that make us proud, in a way that makes
us second place all the time. Weíre not always competing to be #1, weíre
always accepting that we wonít be #1. Thereís a guy in Montreal named
Denys Arcand who has an Oscar for
shooting a movie in his backyard. The Quebecers are different than
Canadians. Arcand makes movies about his reality, his world, his
friends, his people Ė and they donít care about anything else and therefore
Itís because itís real and they embrace who they are.
Well, there are bad things with that too. But there are good things. Iíd
rather be real and abrasive sometimes than be like the rest of Canada. The
rest of Canada doesnít really have an identity and so what do you expect
from someone. Why should someone tune into Blue Murder as opposed to Law &
Order? Because that is the choice.
That brings me to another circumstance. Richard Leacock is a co-star
in the series ďDocĒ that is filmed completely in Toronto and airs at least
once a week in Canada Ė yet no one knows who he is. He canít walk alone
anywhere in the southern U.S. without being mobbed because it is such a big
series there. Yet again, no one here knows who he is. Thatís why I was so
happy to see him get a ReelWorld Trailblazer Award as it is Canada that is
recognizing his efforts.
That show is very specific. Once again, itís a certain group of American
people, not even all of America, just one section, because of one guy, Billy
Ray Cyrus. Heís not even an actor but it pays off because there are people
that watch it religiously and heís really decent in it. He has shortcomings
but that makes him real.
What is that about the Canadian public that doesnít embrace its own?
Itís not on the public, itís on the media. Media is the #1 teacher. When
you are making product, youíre already passing the buck, youíre already
saying ďOh well, I donít have enough money to do this so Iím going to do
that.Ē And then you expect people to go out and watch it with that
attitude. Itís not the public, they will watch actually. I
never even watched Canadian TV until I got booked on Blue Murder. The only
thing I remember was Traders. I
remember thinking this is a good show. I remember not caring or even
knowing where it was from. Then I remember
Neon Rider when I was young. I remember watching the guy and
heís got his horse and heís doing his thing. If something has heart, people
will watch it. So, itís a catch 22. Weíre saying if people would watch,
then we would get more viewers and more money Ö we have to start here
(points to heart). We have to find a way to make it with less money, more
integrity and get those people to watch.
That goes back to the identity thing. Everyone second-guesses themselves
just for being Canadian. Like itís not enough. It is enough and in
fact itís celebrated in many parts of the world.
I donít think that we have a star system either. That all ties into that
ďmaple leafĒ attitude. That weíre not good enough. But they can take Jim
Carrey and make him a star. They donít actually come and take people, these
people actually leave. They donít really know anything about us still.
I do think Americaís eyebrows are up though because Iím getting more and
more U.S. executives in entertainment asking to be on my distribution
because they want to know whatís going on here, Iím assuming.
I think this is funny. Michie Mee was
just as good as MC Lyte was back in the day. Bottom line, they know how to
make their stars. They make them stars. We donít know how to
They also have a history of making stars. Weíre relatively new to it.
But what about Quebec? Quebec has stars. Iím asking why are they able to
do it. So, itís not about being American or Canadian because technically
they are Canadian. Itís the belief that they can make it happen amongst
themselves. Toronto has enough to make things happen. We will bow down to
50 Cent but are we going to give love to Choclair
and say ďyo dog, that was a good trackĒ? But if Choclair gets signed in the
States Ö then the love will be given. As long as the Americans are backing
you, the love is given. If the Americans are not backing you, theyíre like
Ďyeah, so it came back here and nothingís working (sarcastically)í.
Because we donít have the belief that we are somebody. You do a show in the
States and you are a star. They say - ok this is the next star. Theyíre
always looking for that star. 90% of the time, it doesnít work. They put a
guy in our face like Josh Hartnett. Me, I look at this guy and say what can
he do? Heís in over his head, heís in a big movie with Harrison Ford but
what can he do? Heís a boy. But it didnít work. It doesnít work on
everybody. But they try to do it for everybody. If you stay
here, you can be stuck. Mike Bullard got cancelled. Whatís the difference
between Mike Bullard and David Letterman? As soon as you start moving
towards that brash or American attitude and youíre by yourself, and because
Canadians donít like that, the masses will win. How can you not have Mike
Bullard on the air? How does that work exactly? What are we thinking now?
The guy in marketing for Mike Bullard Ė I have yet to be offered, called,
emailed or anything about getting tickets to go there. Meanwhile, when I
watch that show, they always say, free tickets call this number. And
thereís always something going on. Iím saying Iím here.
So you think that the people even as deep as the staff of recruiters for
guests on the show are looking for American guests?
Yes, theyíre looking for the American guest. But itís that attitude Ė that
ďmaple leafĒ attitude. Itís in every facet, not only entertainment. The
guy whoís doing your marketing, he doesnít think outside the box. You are a
professional in your field. If Iím on a show and Iím given a scene that
doesnít work for me because it has maple leaf written all over it, I say
Ďno, but this is how itís going to beí. And itís a big struggle. You have
the director, the editor, and the network. Everyoneís got this
mentality, all you can do is represent yourself. What Iím saying everybody
that is Canadian has either submitted to or is the cause of the reason why.
We donít dream.
If you have one person that doesnít believe in their identity, they will
probably not be successful. If you have an entire country that feels that
way, there is never going to be a formula for star power.
The Prime Minister at the time,
bows down to Bush. Bush didnít even thank him and heís bowing down, kissing
ass. That pretty much says it all. Actually, the Quebecers have the right
idea, it just doesnít fit into the agenda of the rest of Canada. Iím from
and live in Quebec and know everything thatís happening over there and
theyíre annoying. In fact, French is my first language. They want to
separate and you know what? They will eventually Ė even if it
takes years. Theyíre just not smart enough yet to realize whoís going to
help them do it. The real reason why itís easier for them in Quebec is the
language. They canít fit in to the American culture. They donít want to
learn the language. Itís because they feel rejected, thatís why theyíre so
Have you experienced any unique circumstances being a Black Canadian
actor? Do you feel set apart from other actors in Canada?
Yeah, of course. I was talking about that the other day with Joel from Blue
Murder. If I was a 5' 10" white guy, I would get to audition "x" number of
times. But me being me, I get to audition 1/5 of that. So, I have to be
sharper to make sure that I get it. If I get it, then it's easy for me to
succeed in the game. But I have to book it. And then when you're the
Black choice, but they don't know if they're going "Black". So, you do your
thing and you get the callbacks. You're the man, you're hot. And then
they say, you know, I don't know whether we're going to go Black. That's
the reality. I don't think that any White guy has to go through that same
thing Ė I don't know if we're going to go White on this one. I embrace it.
The agent is great but it's the producers and whether they are interested in
seeing you or are they really looking at you. You know when you're really
being looked at. You know by the size of the role, by the project, if
you're really being look at. Not that you do it differently but you take it
with a grain of salt.
If there were no limits or obstacles to doing what you want to do, what
would you be doing? Money, nothing stands in your way Ė what would you do?
Writing and directing my own movies.
Do you have any interests outside of that?
I believe very strongly in the things that we were talking about before.
Canadians having no confidence in themselves and us Blacks having no
confidence in ourselves. Last week I was discouraged because I haven't
worked in a couple of months. I put on BET and I see Jay-Z "big pimpin',
spending cheez" and macking the hos and the cuties and it's all love. Me?
I'm a fairly successful guy. I'm a successful 30 year old. I'm happy. So,
I shouldn't be discouraged by that. But I'm looking at him thinking I'm
really far from what I'm meant to do. So, that image is not working for me
and I'm more discouraged. So, I flip the channel and I go to Biography Ė
A&E. And what do I see? Bruce Lee.
So, I sat down discouraged, put on BET and got more discouraged and then I
put on Bruce Lee
and was instantly energized and inspired. I
stood up and went out and typed my proposal and did what I had to do because
there's always hope. My point is that I believe very strongly that
BET, through no fault of their own, is a negative influence of Black people.
I would be alone standing here but I donít care - I don't give a damn
because I'm Canadian.
I totally agree with you.
The kids see those images and they want to be that. It's not bad in and of
itself if there were other choices being offered. You can't have gospel on
Sunday morning, then news at 11 and then prime time is always 50 Cent,
always the hot flavour, with the bling. These guys don't want to even be
role models Ė it's not even their fault. 50 Cent says "I can't believe
Reebok made a
psycho." It's not his fault. Corporate America
says deal for him, no deal for Common, no deal for Lauryn. That's the bad
part of it. The kids are becoming that way.
How would you like to be remembered? What do you hope people go away
after meeting you saying?
I hope that they go away saying that I am a good actor. In other words, I
want people to go see a movie because of me. I go see movies when I hear
that it's Pacino. I want one person to go see something that I did because
of me. Or in part because of me. Or, this guy did a movie before and it
was good and I know this one's going to be good too. Or this guy's witty,
or something. Because that's what it's about at the end of the day. It's
about pleasing the audience.
Iíd like to be known for striving for excellence. As well, a good husband
and a good father.