From drama class to TIFF
Actor Ronnie Rowe Jr. on starring in the film Black Cop
It’s not every day that actors get to see their work premiere at one of the biggest and most important film festivals in the world. But that’s exactly what happened for Thornhill actor Ronnie Rowe Jr. when Black Cop, a film he recently starred in, made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
“I’m a Toronto boy, so to experience that with so many family and friends was such a special moment,” he says. “I’m so humbled by the positive feedback the film is getting, and that makes me want to keep digging and do better.”
The movie was directed by Cory Bowles ( Trailer Park Boys) and was shot over just 12 days in Nova Scotia.
“What was really special about this film was everyone’s commitment to the project. I had a feeling it would be a great film because of that,” says Rowe. He describes the film, which delves into race-based police violence, as a psychological drama.
“It’s about a man’s struggle between his duty and who he is and seeing the dualities of both worlds.”
Acting became part of Rowe’s life at an early age, doing plays in elementary and high school, as well as thriving in drama class at St. Elizabeth Catholic High School in Vaughan.
And whereas you might think that it was those high school drama classes and stage productions that made the most significant impact on Rowe’s career, he also highlights basketball as something that helped shape his current path.
“When I wasn’t pursuing acting, I was really involved in basketball, which taught me diligence and patience,” he says.
He played for his high school team and explains how the sport helped to positively affect his acting.
“I’m thankful for my time with basketball. It taught me how much time I need to put in to achieve something. It’s fascinating how the two [basketball and acting] coalesce.”
The first role that stands out as a solid stepping stone for Rowe was being cast as one of the leads in the Woody Harrelson play A Bullet for Adolf, which ran at Hart House Theatre.
“I got to interact with and hang out with an A-list actor and have him say positive things about what I was doing, which made me believe more in myself. It was a great experience and a trajectory changer for sure,” says Rowe.
Shortly after, he landed a recurring role on the NBC series The Firm and has since worked on other productions, including roles on The Strain, The Expanse and Dark Matter. Apart from his onscreen appearances, Rowe cites his stage work as a huge teacher for him.
“You’re repeating the same words over and over, so you need to find ways to keep it fresh and find ways to constantly keep the audience engaged,” he explains. “With film and television, you get a lot of takes, but with theatre it’s in the moment, and you need to be on your game or people will know.”
Acting can often be a frustrating profession, so Rowe reads empowering books, meditates and focuses on personal growth.
“I try to stay away from the noise and just hone my craft and do good work. Everyone’s journey is totally different, so you have to just focus on yourself,” he says.
Rowe has some exciting things in the pipeline, but he’s not able to share details just yet.
“I’m always trying to do better than I did before.… I just want to continue to create and produce good work and work with good people who can help my career grow,” he says.
Rowe shot ‘Black Cop’ in Nova Scotia over 12 days