Monday, 11 August 2014

STAYING POWER: Chris 'Johnny' Daley on life in the spotlight and reinventing himself

TICKET TO RIDE: Daley (left), alongside costar Gregory Nelson in the award-winning Kingston Paradise.
For some creative artists puzzling out one's identity and where one might fit into the grand scheme of things can take decades. For Chris 'Johnny' Daley, however, the epiphany came much sooner. "I think I have a unique existence where Jamaica's cultural landscape is concerned," reflects the seasoned actor and comedian, taking a break from emcee duties during the film and TV portion of last week's Aunty Roachy Festival in Kingston. "I'm still young, but I've been around for so long, and I think it has reached a point where people can't deal with that. I'm not yet 40, and so it is interesting to see how people respond to me, still around, still relevant."

He's not kidding. Given his privileged start in the acting world almost two decades ago on TV's groundbreaking Lime Tree Lane series, opposite the likes of Dorothy Cunningham and Clive Duncan, it would appear that Daley has been transitioning in the public consciousness far longer than folks twice his age. But the diminutive star has a simple litmus test for gauging his contribution to an industry he cherishes dearly: establish your own brand and embrace the art of self-reinvention. "You have to develop your brand, and you make that brand work for you," he says.

A multifaceted entertainer with Renaissance Man potential, Daley's career in the arts spans not only television and theatre and stand-up comedy but more recently feature films and radio. Just last year, Kingston Paradise, a big-screen starring vehicle directed by Mary Wells ushered him into the world of international film festivals and red-carpet premieres. "It's a project that we actually did almost five years ago, in terms of shooting," he tells TALLAWAH of the full-length feature, filmed in Southside and Tel Aviv, for which he earned huzzahs as a cab driver whose ambition could ruin him. "Now we have the honour of enjoying the [film's] success."

And that includes picking up awards at the Pan American Film Festival in Los Angeles and the CaribbeanTales fest in Toronto. "It's a good look and hopefully by December, I'm told, Jamaicans should be able to see it." It's about time.

Meantime, as Daley gets set to take his one-man comedy routine on the road, expect him to pop up at a venue in a town near you anytime soon. "I haven't been in any theatrical productions for quite a while because I'm more focussed on the stand-up," the SunCity Radio host admits. "It's something where you have to dedicate time to it. I've opened up myself now, where I can be employed wherever." And that's not all. The highly self-motivated father of three adds, "At this point I want to let the public absorb the young adult Christopher Daley. I have a big portfolio, but I can manage." 

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