What inspired you to become an actor?
Growing up my sister and I would always play make believe. We dressed up and pretended to be traveling the world. Then i discovered The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The my sister and I would pretend to be Power Rangers. After I moved to Toronto in 1996 from Jamaica I fell in love with Television and Movies. I fell in love with Mrs. Doubtfire , The Terminator 1 and 2. But Fight Club was one of the movies that made me fall in love with characters. The performances were so stellar that it made we want to go on that journey with the characters. It made me fall in love with story telling and interested in the complexities of human beings and our minds.
I first became aware of you from LA Complex. The character you played was out while dating a closeted rapper. Any parallels to your own life?
There are a lot of things that Tariq has done that I wouldn’t have done. Tariq and I are similar in the sense that we both fight for what we want in life. If we want something bad enough we will find a way to get to our end goal. It ‘s one of the things I admired about him.
What was the experience getting the role and working on L.A. Complex?
I originally auditioned for the role of Tariq a few months before getting the actual role. I originally auditioned in Toronto with my old agent before moving to Vancouver, BC. A few months had passed and my Vancouver Agent told me that the role hadn’t been cast. So the next day I re-taped my audition and sent it to one of the producers whom I just happen to be friends with on Facebook. The next day my Vancouver called saying I had a callback for “Highland Gardens”. I told her what I had done and she was completely supportive. Two days later I had a callback and then a day later I received that I had been cast. The second experience went a lot faster. Within a week I was back to Toronto to shoot the show.
Working on the L.A. Complex was incredible. I learned a lot of technical things and I basically had a family for two seasons. It’s always an actors dream to be constantly working on a show that was far ahead of its time. At times I felt overwhelmed because it was my first big television show and I was a bit new. But working with the professionals I had made me feel a lot better about the entire situation.
Photography by David Tenniswood
I think that relationship between Tariq and Kal broke a lot of boundaries. Was that something you two discussed off screen?
I absolutely agree Tariq and Kal broke boundaries on television. Andra and I didn’t discuss it off screen. I can only speak for myself and I felt that it was obvious and it wasn’t necessary. I was too busy understanding Tariq and creating his world that I didn’t have time to think about the impact the relationship would project in mainstream media. As an actor it was my job to be “Tariq” and not “Ben”. Tariq wasn’t thinking about how his relationship would impact the black gay community but instead the impact his music would impact the world.
Would you consider it a conscious effort to be an “out” actor?
My sexuality has never been something that needs an explanation. I’m an actor. I play multiple people and use my inner life, real or imaginary to create a human being. I am who I am. I’m more conscious about being true to who I am as a human and who my parents raised me to be. That takes priority especially being in Los Angeles where the city will eat you alive.
What motivates you to be creative?
Storytelling motivates me quite a bit. I love touching that part of someone’s brain that gets them to think differently in their day to day life. Also I love getting fan mail where people tell me their history of who they are and what they want in life.
I’m fascinated by people and learning how someone thinks, feels, walks and generally what motivates them to get out of bed in the morning or why they don’t want to get out of bed. Every human is interconnecting on a deeper level and I love finding a way through my craft to get in touch with that side.
Do you have any projects in the works? What would be a dream project?
Yes I have a few projects on the go right now. Last Year I shot two pilots. One is called “Bedtime Stories” that is getting ready to be pick up and will be shooting the series in a few months. Another is an “Untitled Piot” that is being shopped around to two networks at the moment.
I’m also in talks to co-star in a movie called “Candyland”. But I can’t say much until I’ve been officially confirmed.
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Check out Ben in the third season of ‘Designated Survivor’ on Netlfix.