Trini-Canadian writer and actor Joseph Jomo Pierre said he felt he was drawn to come back to T&T to act as the lead character, Jason, in the Caribbean premiere of Carnival Medea. Pierre left T&T at nine years old and was brought up in Toronto, Canada.
He credits his upbringing in T&T with his sense of spirituality and his introduction to a love of language which grew and developed in Canada. Pierre said he always wanted to be an actor and never thought of himself as a writer. He attended the Claude Watson Arts Program at the Earl Haig Secondary School where he studied theatre in addition to attending regular classes. He said during this time he was finding his voice.
“I had a Speech Arts class where we had to write something to read in front of the class and that’s when I realized I could write. I’d show up late for my English class assignments because I’d written 50 pages where everyone else did two. I was developing what I loved without knowing what I was doing.”
Pierre then attended the Acting Conservatory at York University, Toronto, where he gained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. “My first two years of University I was basically doing things I already knew but I was getting a deeper understanding of it. I think the foundation for me as an actor was what I learned there in my third and fourth year, mixing that with what I had already gained and just really personalizing what it is I wanted to do as an actor.
I was also entered into a Fringe Festival and that’s when my teachers realized I could write, so I became known as someone who was a writer/actor.” Pierre began focusing on writing plays, which were highly influenced by his Trinidadian upbringing and his association with hip-hop culture. His first play, Beat Down, was swept up by Playwrights Canada Press before he could get it on stage. He negotiated another play, Born Ready, to be published in the same publication, which also included a third play called Pusha-Man. His next play, Shakespeare’s Nigga, was a finalist for the 2013 Governor Generals Literary Award for Drama, and his most recently finished play, Twisted, a remake of Oliver Twist, is set to be published in a month. The plays have been staged in Toronto, New York and Barbados, and he wrote a project for the last Pan American games.
In addition, he is currently the playwright in residence at the Factory Theatre, and has also worked at the Obsidian Theatre, Tarragon and Theatre Passe Maurielle. While at Obsidian, Pierre met his director Philip Akin and dramaturge Iris Turcott, who he said was a great inspiration. “She’s such a great champion of my work and was really about my voice.”
Pierre said he’s been able to be in control of what he wants to do in terms of his writing. “I don’t cater for anyone specifically when I’m writing.” On his website, Pierre said “an important aspect to his work is his desire to represent the unrepresented on stage. His characters are the everyday folk on the street. Black faces on stage that the youth can relate to. Depicting their struggle for him is a way of validating their existence.”
He has also acted in dramas such as Intelligence and Saving Hope, and appeared in supporting roles in the films Take the Lead, Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story and Get Rich or Die Tryin’. He just wrapped up filming on a fifth season of Saving Hope, which gave him the opportunity to come to Trinidad to participate in Carnival Medea.
Pierre was approached by playwright and director Rhoma Spencer and was immediately interested in coming to Trinidad because this was where he got his first inkling of being in the theatre and in order to “work on a piece that had a lot of the dialect, phrases and sayings that I grew up with through my grandmothers. I’m enjoying getting back into the culture. There are certain elements of living here, it’s just the calling, I feel like my soul gets nourishment from being home.”
Pierre said he discovers more depth every time he works with the character. “I think everybody thinks they’re supposed to hate Jason, but I feel like you might despise him for a moment, but not hate him. That’s always the goal, to find something that people can relate to in a character they’re supposed to hate. I feel that’s my job as an actor to make this person a human being, so that you question his motives rather than being dismissive. So overall I’m pretty content to come here and work on something I wanted to explore and be a part of.”
For more information on Pierre, go to http://www.josephjomopierre.com.
Carnival Medea will run on February 9 to 12, February 16 to 19 and March 2 to 5 at the Little Carib Theatre.