Queen & Slim’s Bertrand E. Boyd II Says Spoken Word and Poetry Prepared Him For Acting
Actor, poet, and spoken word artist Bertrand E. Boyd II appeared in his first feature-length film Queen & Slim. In the movie, a Tinder date doesn’t go as planned when the couple is pulled over by a police officer. In the film, Boyd plays a foe who is pretending to be a friend. Also appearing in Between the Ropes and TV series Murder Gardens, he is a rising star on the silver screen and an accomplished wordsmith. In a conversation with QG, he gives insight on how the current racial climate makes his latest film impactful, the power of spoken word and why creativity is important.
What lead you down the path to becoming an actor?
I never had any intention of acting. It truly fell in my lap via suggestion. My manager at the time commented about me acting, and it grew from there. My first five films were free student films at Palm Beach College. The only thing I ever knew was spoken word. Learning my lines for a script was foreign to me, but I was able to excel at it because of the poetry.
How can audiences relate to Queen & Slim in the current racial climate?
The climate we’re in today is too familiar. This film depicts the racial injustice and prejudice that black people receive [encounter] on a day to day basis. Something as simple as going on a date and making it back home safely without fear of being pulled over and harassed unnecessarily by law enforcement in this country is an ongoing occurrence. Audiences will be able to relate to this project; this piece of art touches on trust, racism and more importantly, black love.
Why do you feel stories like Queen & Slim needs to be told?
It’s vital that black stories are expressed through the lens of black people. Our stories are usually whitewashed to the point [where] it becomes upsetting to view. Too many of our stories of traumas and triumphs are downplayed as if they hold no significant value to this country. Whether it is via film or music, the struggles we’ve endured should be showcased without filters. Our voices need to be heard from a position of authority. Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas did a phenomenal job at painting these images.
How does spoken word compare to acting?
Honestly, memorizing my own poems and then having to know a script that I didn’t write, was a slightly weird transitioning. The lines are delivered in a certain cadence when performing poetry. The script must be delivered in a certain way, so while you’re acting it doesn’t come off as “acting” or lines being read.
Poetry is something that I’ve been a part of for 16 years. I was introduced to Will “Da Real One” Bell by a teacher in high school, who I affectionately call “Blue.” After I met Will, writing became the biggest influence in my life. Before I ever considered picking up a script, I was stuck on writing poems. It was different and exciting to me. There was no greater feeling than writing a poem, committing it to memory and then sharing it at a venue. Poetry will always be there for me because it’s the foundation.
It’s not the toughest transition, but there are some differences and similarities in both crafts. Both have allowed me to strengthen my public speaking and with me being a natural introvert, it’s provided me with an opportunity to focus on my shortcomings.
Can you share some of your experiences while traveling the globe as a spoken word artist?
My very first feature performance was in the Turks and Caicos with Will Bell. Towards the end of 2018, I was the featured poet at New York University in Abu Dhabi and London. Some of the best and worst experiences have occurred while traveling the world performing poetry.
I’ve been robbed while on the road. I’ve been stranded and slept on a few benches because things were not working in my favor. I never allowed any of these things to deter the mission. When such things would happen, I would just tell myself that it’s just more pages for my memoir. Traveling the globe can be fun and dangerous because it can be so unpredictable, and if you’re not from a certain area you stick out like a sore thumb. So sometimes that invites trouble.
Why is being creative important to you?
Being able to create anything provides me with a certain satisfaction that if I put my mind to something, I have the skill to bring it to life. There’s a freedom that comes from creating that you can’t get anywhere else. Creating has been a way of life for so long [that] I don’t see myself not being able to do so. My life revolves around it.
What is your dream project?
My dream project, outside of writing and directing my own Miami-based series, will have to be portraying former MLB pitcher Dock Ellis. My first love is baseball, and I am a former pitcher and center fielder. I think his story would be a compelling story to portray. I’ve been wanting to do that project for about six years now. That right there would be a dream come true to me.
What can fans expect from you in the near future?
You can expect to see me in more movies. I’m very strategic and careful with how I move and who I engage with at this time, but you can count on seeing me on the silver screen.