Conrad Parris is an Actor, Voice Talent, and Television Presenter. Chances are you’ve seen or heard him somewhere before. He’s probably influenced some of your everyday choices! Ever the gentleman, Conrad shares his 20 shades with us.
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
I define creativity as "giving of yourself". This is what I was taught to do as an actor, invest myself. It's what all creative people do in their respective fields; build this thing that transcends their physical self, and becomes immortal.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
It's probably 50-50. My father Hamilton Parris was an actor, and my mother Vera taught Art at one point. It is plausible that some measure of creative ability could've been encoded in my DNA. With training, I began to hone that creativity.
When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I always wanted to be an actor; I just didn't know how to articulate that until I was 20. I distinctly remember as a child being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and answering with a list of professions. Only as an adult did I realize that acting is perhaps the one profession that could afford someone the opportunity to be all those things on that list. It was encouraged initially, as an extracurricular activity. My announcement of pursuing acting full-time did not get rave reviews all round, though.
What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
It's quite the balancing act; doing this thing, trying to live by it - flourish, even - and be respected by peers and audience and society alike.
I like to go on how the work makes me feel. There must be something evocative about it, regardless of whether it's a comedy or drama or farce. If I as an actor could have an audience root for my character, or I as an audience member root for another actor's portrayal, then cooking with gas is taking place. I respect that actor's work, and I hope people respect mine. To me, that is the payment we seek.
However, we all know applause and respect can't pay bills and buy groceries. Ultimately, I would like survival to be less of a monthly roller coaster, and more of a Sunday stroll. I don't begrudge anyone who lives well by this; I want to live well by it, too.
Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
The culture here challenges those who do creative work to be relevant and recognisable. We're not a people that fawns over celebrity, or idolizes people; we can't wait to see them fall sometimes.
It's hard to gauge the true impact of my work. People may tell you, "I like what you're doing! Keep it up!", when they see you on television. But you may have to take it with a grain of salt, because there is no guarantee that these people would pay money to see you in a play or in a movie. I was told people complain that locally-made movies should have cheaper prices because they're local. I still don't know how to take that, other than press on to the point where such a complaint doesn't exist.
What do you do when you experience a creative block?
Actors don't have the luxury of creative blocks. We either work, or don't work. As a sometime playwright however, that is tricky. I've been living in a creative block for a hot minute now. Shameful, I know.
How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
I think the piece you are working on dictates the actor's spark. Something about it has to resonate within you in order to produce the necessary action. It could be anything, from how funny it is to how much it reminds you of a personal experience.
Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
Not necessarily. I just try to jump in from where I am, and with good direction and initiative, things will iron out themselves eventually.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how.
I believe that it has changed. Creativity and maturity inform each other. Something you learn in performance could affect your life; something you learn in life will definitely inform your performance. Growth either way seems inevitable.
Maturity has taught me to keep things simple. You layer a character too much, you stand a better chance of muddling it. You work with what's presented to you in your script, your definition would be that much clearer. You develop a better overview of your character's role in the whole piece.
What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
For me, it was deciding to eschew the conventional 9-to-5 life entirely to become an actor.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
My parents' imparting of their work ethic is at the centre of my perseverance.
Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
I don't expect everyone to validate me as a creative, but I guess it would be nice. It's that self-same invalidation that drives me continually as an actor in this space, come to think of it.
However, I do hope that one day in my lifetime it will cease being an uphill battle for creative people to be given their due recognition in this society. So many of our creative forbearers and their respective works have disappeared because of our culture of non-preservation and neglect of the arts. Some of them contributed to that, because they too bought into the idea that what they did wasn't important. So perhaps the ideal thing is to straddle both concepts.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
The audition process used to make me contemplate doing something else entirely. A string of rejections would do that to you. By some twist of fate, or mathematics - I don't know - I stuck it out, and rejection became less and less of an issue. I somehow managed to get up and try again and again and again, in spite of being refused again and again and again.
Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
My immediate reaction would be to wish that I knew then what I know now. With deeper thought though, I don't think I'd change anything. I believe that all the tools you need avail themselves exactly when you need them. All you have is now; use what you have.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Of course I've doubted my talent! Every time I watch a Meryl Streep performance. Seriously, when confronted with that doubt, I had to step back and reassess myself, and the task at hand. Then, I got back in the ring and attacked the piece anew.
What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
Of late, I'm proud of the work I did in "The King and I" last year. I felt myself grow in that role, and it has impacted everything I've done since then, on and off stage.
Have you helped or mentored anyone else? Is there someone that you see (name drop) that you would like to Mentor?
I only began seriously contemplating mentorship recently. A friend of mine is starting a dreambuilding organization, and we are discussing what role I can play there. I really would like to show children and encourage them to believe that they can indeed make their wildest dreams come true, regardless of the lack of support from the people around them. Even better would be to actually provide them the opportunities and other essentials to achieve their goals.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
I always say this; there is no glamour in this thing. If that's what you're looking for, go elsewhere. If this is what you're serious about, then know that the work you put in is its own reward. The accolades and other trappings will come eventually.
What would you most like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as someone who paved the way for Trinidadian and Caribbean creative talents to be recognised the world over.
I'd like to contribute to the changing of the mindset that acting is a hobby that won't get you far, or that you'll need something to fall back on in order to live.
Most importantly, I would like to be remembered as a real example that dreams come true with perseverance and hard work.
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
Good question. I'll have to get back to you on that.
We’ll be looking out for the name of Conrad’s crayon colour. Maybe you could suggest one to him. Follow Conrad on Facebook or Twitter. Contact him by Email. In case you missed it, see Conrad in NOKA Keeper of Worlds