Tuesday, 2 January 2018

ON THE RECORD: Actor Ricky Rowe on his new show Jamaica Sweeter, his strict mom and supportive wife, and lessons learned

ME, MYSELF & I: "My strength as an actor is switching from one character to the next in the space of no time," says the (5-feet-6-inches tall) actor.

ACE comic Ricky Rowe has strong ties to the UK. His wife, Susan, and two teenage daughter reside there and he has performed in several plays put on by the widely acclaimed Blue Mountain Theatre Group, which also gave Terri Salmon, Audrey Reid and Oliver Samuels some of the best work of their careers. But Ricky’s heart resides in Jamaica. This son of Portland, who graduated from Happy Grove High before pursuing full-time drama studies at the Edna Manley College, comes home every chance he gets, usually to costar in or produce a play. He’s mounted his own work, like Four Bulla and a Patty and the hilarious Samson & De Liar (under his Yaadyboy Entertainment banner), but this season he re-teams with Salmon and a troupe of hot talents in David in Tulloch’s Jamaica Sweeter, leaving the audience is stitches with his deft comedic turns. The “almost 40, not quite there yet” actor chatted with TALLAWAH about doing work he’s passionate about, family life and why he is the total package.

TALLAWAH: Is Jamaica really sweeter than in days gone by?
Ricky Rowe: Jamaica is always sweet. Certain things I get here, I don’t get in England, like certain parts of the culture. We see tourists flying in regularly. We see Jamaicans who were living overseas returning home. Everybody is looking for an opportunity, and they feel Jamaica is a great place for opportunity.

TALLAWAH: Your costar Derrick Clarke says he grew up watching performers like you and Terri Salmon and feeling motivated to step up his game. Does that make you feel old?
Ricky Rowe: Naturally, it just makes me feel experienced. It’s the maturity that counts.

TALLAWAH: Indeed. In Jamaica Sweeter, you take on several characters, from a newlywed to a police constable to a street beggar. How do you prepare for a show like this?
Ricky Rowe: It comes naturally to me. I’ve been in this thing for a minute, so it’s like butter. My strength as an actor is switching from one character to the next in the space of no time. The hardest part is knowing what comes next. It’s just me; mi born fi this. Some of my favourite actors, like Eddie Murphy, Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean [Rowan Atkinson] can transform and play multiple characters. They are the ones I look up to.

TALLAWAH: You’re not on the local stage regularly. What are you up to when we don’t see you? 
Ricky Rowe: I’m back in England, but I’m looking to cement my foot here. There’s a huge gap in local theatre. Jamaica is needing something exciting to ignite that fire in theatre again. I come to stir things up. But the wife controls everything, so if she says I have to come back home, then I have to go back home.

TALLAWAH: Speaking of family, what’s the best piece of advice your folks have ever given you? 
Ricky Rowe: I remember when I was about 13 or 14, I was watching TV and I said to my mom that one day I would be on TV. And she said that if that’s what I want to do then I should do it. My mother is a strict woman, so for her to tell me that, I take it and run with it (Laughs). My family is very supportive. My wife, Susan, is the one who encouraged me to start writing my own plays, and I kept writing them since then.

TALLAWAH: Interesting. So how do you define yourself now as an artist? Who is Ricky Rowe in 2018?
Ricky Rowe: Ricky is an enigma; a force that can’t be contained in a bottle. Ricky Rowe is talented beyond people’s imagination. As someone once told me, mi small but mi tallawah. I consider myself the complete package. I can entertain anybody.

TALLAWAH: So what’s the secret to maintaining your rhythm as a working artist moving forward in his career? What has life taught you?
Ricky Rowe: You have to keep it real. I’m trying to stay real at all times, and that keeps me motivated. I try not to be ‘hype.’ I’m not into deterring anyone from pursuing their passion because I remember when I was in their position. In my work I hope it comes true to the audience because I’m doing it for the people. I do it for them to enjoy it.

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