ROCK SOLID: "I'm successful, so I give God thanks for that. I can't complain. I'm living good."
You recognize him immediately, looking sporty in a crisp white tee, baggy short pants and matching black sneakers, greeting Devon House patrons as his mini-entourage looks on from a safe distance. The humble, laid-back vibe Louie Rankin' exudes is a far cry from Teddy Bruckshot, the ruthless baddie he portrayed to terrifying effect in the gritty urban classic Shottas that helped, er, rank him among today's most in-demand Jamaican actors with Hollywood ties. (At present, he's a member of the Screen Actors' Guild. ) Still, working in the movies is just one dimension of this lifelong entertainer and businessman, who is equally candid whether the conversation touches on philanthropy, his marriage, or the Jamaican food he simply cannot resist.
TALLAWAH: After co-starring urban screen favourites like Shottas and Belly, you've earned a mega-sized fanbase among today's Jamaican youth, most of whom don't even know that you're a 30-year veteran of the dancehall. How would you say venturing into film changed your life?
Rankin: My life was changed when I did Belly because it became one of the biggest ever blockbusters in gangster movie history. It was like a version of Scarface. So it had a major impact and did a lot for me as an actor. On the music side, I got a Grammy in 1992 for a song called "Typewriter". So I've come a long way, done a lot. The older folks know me as Louie Rankin, but the younger generation call me Teddy Bruckshot.
Director Cess Silvera announced on Twitter last year that the Shottas sequel had been given the green light. What can you tell us about it?
The only reason the movie has not been made is that the production company in Hollywood won't do it unless I'm gonna star in that movie.
But didn't Teddy kick the bucket in the first movie? I vividly recall that final encounter between Teddy and Biggs (Ky-Mani Marley).
I can give you a secret. I got shot in my mouth, but the bullet is supposed to have come through here. [He indicates his left cheek].
Oh. So are you confirming that you're on board to do the sequel?
No, it's not been confirmed because I'm asking for a lot of money, and if they don't go to my expectations I don't think I'll do it.
So when was filming scheduled to begin?
It should have been done already. I am not the problem, but I am the negotiator. That's it.
What's next for you professionally?
I just finished another movie called You Ain't No Killer. I did some of the scenes in Negril, some of it in Portmore. And I also have another movie coming soon. It's called We Run These Streets. So I'm working. And if you know anything about me, you know that everything I do is through Hollywood. So I'm like an industry actor now.
How are things on the family side?
I have another baby on the way, due April 17. My seventh. Mi just ah do my ting, so maybe when I'm gone my kids will have something because I'm valued a lot right now.
You've been with your wife for the past 28 years. How does she feel about your movie-star life?
My wife is good, man, that's why I've been with her all this time. She is a Jamaican, and she knows where I'm coming from. She saw me go through the grind and the struggle. She's always there; she accepts it. A lot of times when I go out, women go crazy over me, but she doesn't mind that. She already knows she's The One. She knows her place. So I love her.
What do you miss most about Jamaica when you're overseas?
Dem ting yah. [He points to the dish before him]. Devon House grapenut ice-cream. Ackee and saltfish with roast breadfruit. Fried parrot-fish. I love those things. So I always miss Jamaica. I miss Jamaica so much sometimes that I just fly in to come eat and then go back. Since the year began I've been here about six times. I have a villa in Negril, 11 bedrooms, so I just come and hide. My security keeps me there, so people don't even know I'm in Jamaica.
You're almost 50. How would you describe your life in general up to this point?
I'm successful, so I give God thanks for that. I can't complain. I'm living good. And none of my family is hungry. Beenie Man says his money pile up; mine is like uncountable right now. So I wouldn't complain.
With money, fame and influence comes great responsibility. What will you do with yours?
What I would like to do is create about two or three good colleges in Jamaica, so the youths who don't have the money for education can get loans like in America and Canada. I just want to do something for the youths. I don't want them to go and do bad things. So that's my dream, and I know I'mma do it.