A few years ago, I noticed Lyriq Bent in John Singleton’s ‘Four Brothers’ and realized even for the small role he had in it, he had amazing presence as as an actor. Since then, I have seen him expanding his rapidly growing filmography in films such as ‘Take the Lead,’ ‘Skinwalkers,’ and the ‘Saw’ franchise. This month, he will reprise his role(now as one of the leads) as Swat commander, Rigg in the much talked about ‘Saw 4.‘ Recently, Lyriq took some time off his busy schedule to sit down with me, and although he was careful about not revealing secrets of ‘Saw 4,’ it still made for a very entertaining interview. I hope you enjoy Lyriq’s ancedotes, humor, and much welcomed honesty as much as I did.
Serena Whitney: Considering you have been involved in the ‘Saw’ series and this year’s werewolf film, ‘Skinwalkers,’ would you say you are a fan of horror films?
Lyriq Bent: I’m actually not a big fan of horror films. I don’t go out and watch them. If there’s a good one that has drawn a lot of attention from a lot of people, then I might consider watching it. But, I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan. If I were to that do that, I would be doing the real horror fans an injustice.
SW:What percentage of the scripts you’ve received recently have been horror films?
LB: (laughs) That is a good question right there. I’d say about 65 to 75 percent I’ve read that and I’ve been looking at for the past 3 months now been horror films. Which just shows you that you’ve got to be careful, because when you do a successful film in a certain genre..
SW: You get type cast.
LB: Or you get a lot of filmmakers in the same genre that think that’s all you’re interested in. So they’re all going to come out of the woodwork with their projects and you just have to figure out which ones you want to pick.
SW: You have played Swat Commander Rigg in three ‘Saw’ films now. You started as a supporting role in ‘Saw 2’ and had a cameo in ‘Saw 3,’ and now you’re playing the lead in ‘Saw 4.’ How do you feel about that and did you ever think your character was ever going to expand to a lead character?
LB: Originally I auditioned for the role of Xavier in ‘Saw 2.’ For political reasons, I didn’t get that role. Looking back at it now, it’s great. But at the time, I thought it was political bull.
SW: Was this because of race issues?
LB: Because the character was a “drug dealer.” They didn’t want an African-American to play the character. That’s what I was told. They were trying to not type cast characters, although I don’t think making the character Puerto-Rican was any better. (laughs) So they brought me back in for Rigg. So I was a little annoyed because this has happened to me so many times, and you don’t know why.
SW: Fans seem to like your character in the series.
LB: Yeah, I had to change my attitude. I had to figure out what I was really upset about and then I thought, ‘You know what? This is what it is. Let me not be bitter about it and let me look at this character [Rigg] and make it into something.’ So I did that, and then I realized this was an amazing character. The casting director came to me and said to me this character is throughout the entire film.
SW: You kind of play Donnie Wahlberg’s character’s conscience alongside Dina Meyers.
LB: Exactly. The character didn’t have much to say, but I saw that as a great opportunity to be the kind of actor I actually like, which is have a lot of emotion and tension through the eyes, and have that speak for its self. So I spoke with the director, Darren Bousman, who is a great guy and he liked what I had to say, and he took it to another level and he incorporated my ideas with the character with his own. Which made Rigg into the character you see onscreen. Good attitude is what brought me to where I’m at really.
SW: That’s great! Although in the third film you have a significantly smaller role than you did in the second film. Was there a reason for that?
LB: I was shooting a tv series, so I wasn’t available. I barely made it in the film.
SW: But they wanted you in it?
LB: Oh yeah. They were really trying to make it work. I only shot for one day. I just couldn’t make it work. I was working on ‘Angela’s Eyes’ everyday. They really made an effort, which is great. Maybe what’s happening now with my character, would have happened last year.
SW: What initially drew you back to return to the ‘Saw’ franchise?
LB: The fact that I was in a position as an actor to be one of the leads in a popular franchise, which is always the ultimate thing for any actor, because at the end of the day, you want to be an A-list actor or an actor who has choices. I had an opportunity to play the lead role in a successful franchise, however I had to make sure all the elements were in place. It is the fourth film and people expect it to fail. People expect it to not do as well. I only got involved because of Darren, [Bousman] the DP, David Armstrong, and the producers. Those people involved in the project were important to me. The story I had no idea, because I knew they were going to be tight lipped with the script. So I knew I couldn’t base my decision off the script. So I knew if Darren was involved, it was going to be good. I respect the way he thinks and how he directs.
SW: So how is it working with Darren Bousman again for the third time?
LB: It gets betters, and it got better each time. Each year I saw the growth in him as a director. It was really interesting to see his confidence shoot through the roof.
SW: What makes your character more pivotal to the story this time round?
LB: You get to know who this character really is. In ‘Saw 2’ you had no idea who he was. Rigg is the silent, strong type. Now you get to find out how strong or maybe how not strong he is. You get to embrace this character and sympathize and understand who he is as a person. I just hope the audience will feel as emotionally exhausted as he [Rigg] is.
SW: I know you can’t give away too much, but now that your character is apart of Jigsaw’s game in this installment, were there any times were you were completely freaked or grossed out?
LB: Surprisingly no. In the two last films I was, because I had never been around it before and I saw a lot of nasty stuff. Even then it’s not that bad because it’s make believe. Although I have to admit the prosthetics do look SO real. It doesn’t gross you out until you actually throw yourself into a scene or the moment and then make it real for yourself.
SW: Do you have any interesting stories or anecdotes from the set that you would care to share?
LB: (laughs) There were times when actors would be in the middle of a serious scene and a fart machine would go off. We all be looking around and we weren’t sure if it was real or not. (laughs) Then we would hear it 2 or 3 more times and all you hear was snickering and then the entire set would be belly-aching. There would also be moments where Scott Patterson [Agent Strahm] and Tobin Bell [Jigsaw] would be in the middle of an intense scene where Tobin would be on a [morgue] slab and Scott would come into the room to look at the body, and all of sudden he would just cup him.
SW: Cup him?
LB: You know…cup him. Cup his nuts! (laughs)
SW: Oh right! (laughs)
LB: Yeah, it was a really a light-hearted set!
SW: I bet! So on to a more serious question, the MPAA originally gave ‘Saw 4’ an NC-17 rating. It was later edited down to an ‘R’ rating. Do you think there is going to be any big differences between the two cuts, and were any of your scenes cut out because of it?
LB: (smiles) I have no idea. I have no clue because I haven’t seen it yet. I just know the shoot was a success. We accomplished what we wanted. The fact that the MPAA wanted to rate the film NC-17, shows us that we’ve done a good job. (laughs) What they’ve done to bring the film to rated R, I have no clue.
SW: This year, the phrase ‘torture porn’ has been used a lot for current horror films. Horror fans seems to hate this because it’s not at all a flattering term. Besides the ‘Hostel’ films, the ‘Saw’ films have been constantly attacked as being classified of being apart of the dreaded ‘torture porn’ subgenre. What is your opinion on this subject?
LB: I think the ‘Saw’ franchise is only being attacked because its so successful. I mean, there is a reason why people call them ‘torture porn.’ That seems to be the selling point for people to go see it. Although, I don’t think ‘Saw’ is just that. I’m not just trying to defend it because I’m apart of it, but the stories and the scripts are what got me. The excessive blood and gore is not in my opinion the driving force of these movies. If you were to take away the blood and all the traps, you’d still have a compelling story. People think the movies are about torturing individuals. Putting them in as much pain as possible. That’s not the objective of ‘Saw.’ A lot of what happens in the ‘Saw’ series is mostly self-inflicted, because they’re given choices. In my opinion is it’s in a totally different category.
SW: Okay, on to a non ‘Saw’ related question. You ‘ve been in the film industry for a few years now, and I heard you started out based on a dare. You’ve already got to work with people like Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas, and Mark Wahlberg. Does your rising success and popularity ever get overwhelming?
LB: Not at all. You mentioned some successful people I have worked with and it’s exciting, not overwhelming. It’s fun because you respect those people. When you also respect what you do, it keeps it all in perspective. I hear that a lot that I’ve been in the industry for a few years now, but it’s been a few years CONSTANTLY working. I’ve been working as a full time actor for 7 years now.
SW: When was the moment you realized you could make a career of what you’re doing right now?
LB: 7 years ago. (laughs) I realized at that point I was studying[acting] for 4-5 years. That’s it. I kept studying and not doing anything with it. I realized I needed to make a career of out of this or walk away from this now. I decided to take a stab at it 100 percent and I’m still at it 100 percent. I’m only getting maybe a quarter of that back. So you can’t do it half-assed and expect to be successful. You might have luck on your side, and things might happen, but I’m in it for the longevity. So I have to give it 100 percent, so I could last in the business.
SW: Do you have upcoming projects you’re working on? I read you have a mini series coming up.
LB: Yes. ‘Guns‘ is a mini-series I shot in Toronto. Sudz Sutherland is the director. It’s about guns in urban cities and how they get there and who’s responsible for that. A lot of times we watch the news and get a story that’s not completely true. There is so many influential people that are involved in what’s going on, with the violence and guns that’s never touched upon, and I think ‘Guns’ does that.
SW: One last question. Is there anyone you would like to work with in the future?
LB: I want to work with anyone who is interested in working with me. However, I would really like to work with Cate Blanchett. I think she is a perfect actress.
SW: Thanks Lyriq!
LB: Thank you.
I’d like to once again thank Lyriq Bent for the interview! He is definitely a great guy to chat with. Be sure to catch Lyriq in ‘Saw 4’ when it opens October 26, 2007 in theatres everywhere. Now if you excuse me…I suddenly have the urge to watch Saw 2 and 3. :P