LEADING-MAN IN TRAINING: "I definitely had to prove I was the right person for the part," admits Burton.
How many 19-year-olds can declare that their first taste of the big times is the starring role in a major motion picture bestowed with a coveted award from the legendary Cannes Film Festival? Although Kevoy Burton has always dreamed big (very much like his onscreen alter ego), the Ardenne High alum is still adjusting to his good fortune. In this summer’s much anticipated release Ghett’a Life, Burton stars as Derek, a highly self-motivated innercity kid with stars in his eyes. But, as we learn, the film performance is only a sign of things to come.
TALLAWAH: Your first major acting job, and you are the main star in an important new film. Are you still in shock?
Burton: Extremely shocked. I don’t know if I will ever get over it. But the experience has been great. I’ve made a lot of new friends and developed friendships with some important people. Now I am referred to as movie star, not Kevoy anymore. (Laughs).
TALLAWAH: Having topped a host of other contenders for the role, you must have had to prove to the producers and director that they’d selected the right fit for Derek.
Burton: This was my first movie role, so I definitely had to prove that I was the right person for the part. When I told my sisters the good news, they told me right away that I would have to bring it. I also got advice that I should be as natural as possible because the weight of the movie was on my shoulders, and if I sucked, the movie would too. So I had to learn to be subtler in my acting and also make the transition from stage acting to acting in front of cameras.
TALLAWAH: Since wrapping work on the film, what kind of professional opportunities have sprung up?
Burton: I was in Tapestry [from Sankofa Productions], which was my first major theatre production. We didn’t get much crowd support, so I didn’t have much adrenaline, but I still had fun. And I got other roles, including the lead on a new TV show called Kingston House, which starts [on TV J] in September.
TALLAWAH: Working on Ghett’a Life with a veteran director and seasoned actors must have been fraught with valuable lessons. What did you take away from the experience?
Burton: What I learnt was that no matter how big you are or how big you get, you are still just an actor. The actors were very mellow and helpful; they would call you one side and teach you about certain things. Overall, the experience taught me that the best way to build yourself is to build others along with you.
TALLAWAH: Playing an ambitious young dreamer like Derek what was the highlight?
Burton: The major highlight was connecting to him. I had to cry, and crying was something I hadn’t done for years. I remember one time I did it in one take. I was like ‘Wow’.
TALLAWAH: Why will people care about this movie?
Burton: As Jamaicans, we all have a dream that we chase. So I think people will follow the story and say that [Derek] is a determined youth. And although he faces so much, he still wants to box. People will look at that and relate to it some way in their own lives. We all face challenges that we work to overcome.
More on Burton:
* Fave films: Set it Off, Bad Boys 2, Shottas, Kung Fu Hustle, Pursuit of Happyness, John Q
* Inspiration: “My father. I’ve learned how to deal with situations from him.”
* On his to-do list: “I really want to do another movie, just to get another feel of it. Create my own films, and write.”
Ghett'a Life preview: What the trailer reveals about the film's characters and issues