Acting, // October 9, 2016
Ty Granderson Jones — ACTOR/DIRECTOR
Interview with actor and director Ty Granderson Jones —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Ty Granderson Jones, a Creole-Cuban OG with New Orleans’ French Quarter roots, who was raised in Tampa, Florida, a professional actor for the past 30 years or so who also writes, produces, directs, makes films, and teaches, and coaches acting when I have the time away from performing or film making. I consider myself an actor who writes who’s learning to be a filmmaker. I am always looking to evolve as an artist and constantly reinvent myself and share my journey and experiences artistically thru my performances on screen or stage, or screenplays that I write. I’m also a published poet from back in the day. At one time, I had a spoken word group that included the legendary drummer of The Doors – John Densmore. I was mentored as a poet by the late, great Gil Scot-Heron. And as an acting teacher/coach, I don’t consider the process as “teaching” but as “sharing.” I really don’t like the concept, word or description of “teacher.” It just feels arrogant and insinuates that we have all the answers…and we don’t. As for teaching acting, I don’t think it can be taught.
Anyway, that’s who I am and what I do. I’m also a Class 5 whitewater rafter, cowboy and former amateur Muay Thai Kickboxer. I have been called a Renaissance man of sorts by others due to my interest in so many different activities and cultures.
2. Why acting?
Well, I just think it was and is in my DNA, a product of my environment growing up as kid. My family was always connected somehow to either music or politics. My uncles are the late Jazz greats Cannonball and Nat Adderly. Another one of my uncles was the Road Manager for Marvin Gaye and James Brown, and my Grandfather, worked for both icons Cab Calloway and Lauren Bacall, who was a huge star in the 50’s/60’s, married to the iconic character actor Humphrey Bogart. So I was always around that show business energy. And I was always just a natural performer, but never musical, although I play around with miscellaneous percussion. A lot of the acting bug was inspired by my late father and my grandfather being movie buffs.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an actor?
Well, it goes all the way back to when I was a small kid. First off, I was the lead in a play in third grade where I played Rumpelstiltskin…lol. As I mentioned, my grandfather and my father (who passed in 2014, he was my hero), were movie buffs. They both loved the movies and television and all they would do was go to the movies and watch television shows. When my Grandfather would baby sit me, he would put a pile of thick blankets next to his recliner and we both would just chill, eat tons of ice cream and watch movie after movie after movie. They were mostly the old B&W movies that you see on Turner Classic Movies on cable these days. We watched a lot of the Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson movies. Back when these movies we made, movie stars were movie stars! Movies like Key Largo, The Roaring 20’s, Public Enemy. My dad would quiz me on movies and the names of stars, etc. Like I mentioned, my family was connected to the music industry and people in show business. I knew show business somehow was my calling. Then I started watching films on my own and got into foreign films of all sorts from Japanese cinema with directors like Akira Kurosawa to Italian cinema with directors like Bernardo Bertolucci to Federico Fellini and everything in between. I would ask my grandfather to find these movies on television or when they came to the movies. And this was when I was barely 8 years old. My influences as screenwriter/filmmaker are Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Roman Polanski, The Coen Brothers, etc. But I had to get after my dream and career by studying Theatre which is my spine. I have done over a hundred plays from Off-Off Broadway to Repertory Theatre. As for writing, I started writing screenplays mid career as a film actor about 1995. It was about attempting to take my career into my own hands. I often tell this story and a lot of my pals always tease me that I am holding on to this disappointment and I should let it go, but it inspired me to evolve into a serious writer. I had read for a movie called “Devil in a Blue Dress” with Denzel Washington for a role called Mouse. A role I felt I was born to play. He was a small gangster with a hot head. A character that had my DNA and demeanor, if anyone knows my story of incarceration and redemption, they know I was the perfect Mouse given my skills as an actor. It got down to a couple of actors including me, but Don Cheadle got the role. The irony is that Cheadle was not even one of the final couple of actors that was being considered. It was me and then there was noted actor Michael Beach who had worked with the director Carl Franklin on a film called “One False Move,” and couple of other actors…one I think was Richard T. Jones. I knew whoever got that role would become a star and have a grand career and be nominated for just about every major award. Cheadle was nominated and won every award, except an Oscar. I often joke if I had gotten the role I would have gotten nominated for an Oscar.
So not getting the role was so disappointing that I responded by writing to create opportunities for myself and many of my very talented unsung friends who are brilliant actors and not getting a fair shake…some very legendary and simply forgotten by our industry, it shamefully happens. Then I realized my scripts needed to be produced, so I started my own company called Creole Celina Entertainment named after my heritage and my daughter Celina. Before I started my company I had optioned a couple of my scripts to a few companies to be produced, they never made the films. And I am happy about that because I regained ownership of my scripts. I never intended to be a screenwriter optioning scripts, like I stated, only to create opportunities for my actor colleagues and myself. But by optioning I made money and it was how I managed to sustain my acting career and eat as I auditioned for gigs like every other actor in Hollywood. But honestly from time to time I am paid handsomely to doctor scripts by major independent film companies and that is how I have managed to sustain.
4. What are your favorite film(s)/genre(s)?
I am very eclectic. I like a little bit of everything. Sort of like my music taste. I can wake up in the morning listening to some Patsy Cline and by the end of the day I am blasting classic Big Daddy Kane to John Coltrane. But I love dark and edgy, such as my aforementioned influences as a screenwriter. I am all about the edgy, underbelly exploration of humanity and society and politics. But genre wise– Gangsters, Espionage, and Westerns are my favorite. My favorite film of all times is a classic western called “Shane”, secondly another western “One Eyed Jacks” with Marlon Brando, M. Night Shyamalan’s – “Unbreakable”, “There Will Be Blood” with Daniel Day Lewis, “Sexy Beast” with Ben Kingsley, and Steven Spielberg’s – “Munich.” But there are so many. I can go on and on.
5. How do you work and approach your subject/character?
Well this OG veteran certainly has a lot to pull from at this point, but being that I was always considered a natural, always able to search and discover the elements of any character within my own DNA thru my most authentic existence and instrument which is body, mind and soul. I studied briefly in NYC at Actors Studio with the late great Lee Strasberg, man I am dating myself here, but I embrace a bit of Method Acting technique. More from the great Constantin Stanislavski’s approach, which is wherefore Method was spawn, and developed by Mr. Strasberg. I went on to get my MFA in Acting at one of the top programs in the world at UCSD and one of my mentors taught me another approach called Transactional Analysis (TA), which was a psychological/psycho-somatic technique of measuring characters. So I use a little of each….Method and TA and my own experiences. Basically I stay open. That is also how I coach. By the way, I keep an authentic first edition copy of Constantin Stanislavski’s book “An Actor Prepares” on my desk as I have…..wherever I am for the last 30 years.
6. What are your most recognizable roles and celebrated films?
Easily the hip hop cult classic “CB4” as the iconic little gangster with a voice box– 40 Dog– opposite Chris Rock and Charlie Murphy, especially even more so now with a resurge of interest last year due to “Straight Outta Compton.” Because if you recall “CB4” was a spoof of “N.W.A.” Even Easy-E did a cameo. Everybody did a cameo in that film– the late Isaac Hayes, Halle Berry, Ice-T, Shaquille O’Neal. And “CB4” was ahead of its time. They recently did a write up about the 17 ways “CB4” influenced the future of Hip Hop and that was over 20 years ago. And secondly, I cannot go anywhere around the world without being recognized at some point as one of the convicts in the action classic “Con Air.” “CB4” and “Con Air” two very fun films to have worked on and made a lot of money (laughing).
7. What are your favorite performance(s), actor(s)?
I am about the typical throwbacks – Marlon Brando, and movies like “On the Waterfront,” etc. But my kinds of actors are Daniel Day Lewis, Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Gary Oldman, Ben Kingsley, and of course Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Mr. Sidney Poitier.
8. Tell us a little bit about your company Creole Celina Entertainment and projects.
Creole Celina Entertainment is small but very vanguard, with an international flavor. It comprises of a few in-house artists- actors, writers, musicians, photographer, filmmakers and show business execs from marketing to attorney. A couple of producing partners Henning Heup and Alexander Isadi are based in Cologne, Germany. Henning is a hot actor, and head writer of a television show in Germany, and Alexander Isadi used run one of the top film financing organizations in Europe. One of our other German partners is based here in Hollywood. He is one of the most sought after entertainment photographers in the world- Jonas Mohr. Then we have Joshua Dutrieux who is Indonesian, raised in Holland– a dynamic composer, visual effects artist and overall genius in my opinion. Adding to the group is musician, marketing exec, producer and concert promoter Lawrence Hires based in Florida. Most recently we added Mumbai, India to the mix a very prolific and visionary business mind – Varun Raj. Varun jumped aboard per our primary project which we have been developing a very long time. A very marketable off-beat gangster film titled “The Cool and Creepy,” which I originally wrote and developed in a writing workshop under the tutelage of the great screenwriter Jim Uhls who wrote the Brad Pitt / Edward Norton classic “Fight Club.” I continued to develop it in the Sundance Feature Film Program. The film is budgeted around 20 million and we are getting close…again (laughing). All about finding finance, and it’s hard to find investors with an imagination to fund films and gamble creatively without some kind of guaranteed return or business plan on their financial investment. I, the artist, am learning that end (laughing). That fine line between art, business and banks. The foundation of the company is pretty much contingent upon mostly content that I am writing and have written. Any interested investor who wants to see who we are can go to www.CreoleCelinaEnt.com
9. Any films you have written produced or directed that we can see currently?
Well, depending when this interview is published, my latest project is very hot and can be seen in the upcoming 13th annual Other Venice Film Festival in Venice, California. It is titled “Diamond.” It is the second film I have written and directed, and the third film that I have produced. “Diamond” is a high end short film that was budgeted at about 30 grand and was very ambitious for a short film. It’s a female heavy cast. It actually premiered this past September in the 12th annual Action on Film International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Action Short of the Year. I also co-star in it. The lead is female. It is a strong female character piece. Like most of my stuff, very edgy, dark, socio-political. The theme is feminism and conservative political hypocrisy. View the trailer here.
Another film I wrote and produced and starred in that I am very proud of is “Napoleonic.” It is post-Katrina vigilante piece about this delusional character played by me stumbles upon the corruption in New Orleans that is slowing down the economic recovery after Katrina. It is my ode to the people there.
10. What advice would you give to other actors?
Honestly, I don’t think there is any advice to give. Everybody’s journey is different. But I will state this; don’t play around with this. The journey and career of a professional actor is not for the faint or the meek. You truly have to be an artist in a modern world and that is hard to navigate between feast and famine…and there will be famine. How one weathers the storm in between gigs is just as important a being a pro as having the gig itself. It’s a tough game. You have to believe and gamble with your life. And it ain’t about fame and fortune. The odds are you will never achieve fame or fortune, but that does not mean you won’t be successful. There is more failure and rejection than anything. My favorite quote is from one of the greatest playwrights to have lived, Samuel Beckett—“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter, try again, fail again. Fail better.”
11. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Alive or Dead… (laughing).
Diamond Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155332379
Ty Granderson Jones Film/TV Demo 2010 – 2015: https://vimeo.com/85412207
Ty Granderson Jones Film Demo 2016: https://vimeo.com/74682221