Lounge Talk: Josh Bonzie
Life is unpredictable. One minute you could be waiting tables in New York and the next, being flown out to the Dominican Republic to act as a prime suspect in a murder. Sound familiar? Probably not. Except, this is the exact story of Josh Bonzie landing the role of Clive Richardson in Hulu’s latest page-to-screen adaptation, Saint X. You never know how much a person’s life can change in just one night, so let’s pause and take a moment to unpack the past, present, and future of rising star, Josh Bonzie.
What made you want to get into acting? Was there a key moment when you realized this is what you want to do, or was it a progression over time?
I was a big daydreamer when I was younger. I spent a lot of time with my thoughts elsewhere but I was always thinking about stories. I loved creating them in my head and I’d write them down and my friends and I would perform little skits in front of my class. I just really really loved pretending. At first, I just had a blast doing it and I was only like seven, but my parents, I think, could see my passion for it. We just didn’t know any actors in Norman, Oklahoma where I grew up. They got me into weekly classes with a lady named Michelle DeLong who had this awesome studio in Oklahoma City and I spent years learning from her. She really taught me the basics. I had a box of tools and then I had a drama teacher in high school who really helped me focus it, because I was kind of a teenage mess and needed direction. The older I got, the more seriously I began to take myself as an actor and storyteller and I kept meeting people on my journey who were willing to help me, champion me, and point me in the right direction. I’m only where I am now, because of the help of other people.
How have you changed from when you first learned you got the role, to when you wrapped filming on set?
I think the only thing that’s changed with me is that my gratitude meter is through the roof. I’m just so incredibly grateful that this worked out the way it did. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but I was working my way up in New York serving in restaurants and sweeping floors right up until I got this role. Like when they called me and told me I landed the part, I still had two more shifts I had to do at the restaurant. I just can’t believe it played out this way, and it’s been fun to be the new kid on the block. I’m very thankful.
What preparation did you have to do before your first day on set?
This character and I didn’t have a ton in common and so I really wanted to have fun with that part. I had to find his voice and then I had to find how he walked. What his posture was like, the way he holds a fork, just all the little details that would color him and make him whole. Lots of dialect coaching as well. The first day was awesome.
What was it like watching your scenes in Saint X back for the first time?
Oh my God, watching Saint X for the first time was intense. I knew I was swinging hard because no one knows who I am and I was playing a complicated character who was nothing like me and had an accent. Watching for the first time was terrifying because I knew that if it didn’t work a lot of people would see me fail. Lots of fear there.
Clive is the only character we see between the two timelines in the past and the present but he changes quite a bit. What was it like to have to portray the two different sides and two different ages of your character?
The most important thing for me was making sure I knew the character’s heart more than anything. I wanted to make sure I knew how he viewed the world, how he viewed himself, and how he viewed those around him… there were some questions I had to get answers to. When he’s younger he behaves one way and then when he’s older and he’s gone through all he’s gone through he behaves a different way. This man has suffered immensely… more than, hopefully, most of us will ever suffer. I had to ask myself what does someone look like when they are young and hopeful and then what do they look like when they lose everything?
What did you do to perfect your Caribbean accent for the show?
This was one of the parts of shooting that stressed me out the most, so I’d work for hours with my amazing dialect coach, Denise Woods. We had to develop two different voices for the younger version of the character and the older version so there was a lot of planning and conversations about what that would sound like with the dialect. We worked together to craft how we thought a guy like this might speak, which was an interesting challenge.
What is your favorite word to say in a Caribbean accent?
I have no idea why but I just really like saying the word “No,” in the accent. I could not tell you the reasoning behind it, I know it’s so random.
What do you do when you aren’t on set?
I spend a lot of time cooking, actually. I love having dinner parties at my place in New York, so I’ll invite some friends over and we’ll lounge around eating whatever, drinking whatever, and having random conversations about anything. My friends are so smart, I love listening to what they have to say about the world and learning new ideas from them over good food.
What is a standout memory you have with the cast of Saint X?
This is going to sound crazy but there was this epic silent disco dance party that randomly took place in the lobby of the hotel where we were staying. None of us expected it, but I think we all just danced for like two hours straight with each other one night and I think that kind of solidified our bond. We were a close cast.
If you could choose a book to get adapted into a TV series or movie, what book would you choose?
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
Who was the first person you told when you learned you got the role of Clive?
That morning was such a blur-and I think I was slightly hungover but I want to say I called my mom? Yeah. Let’s say my mom.
If you could only keep one of the five basic human senses, which would you choose
Who inspires you? (feel free to interpret this however you choose!)
Black women. Without a doubt. They are at the forefront of everything. They’re the North Star for me. Black women inspire me.
If you could star in one show of your choice, which would you pick?
Great question…I’m going to cheat and say two, but I think I’d love to be fighting zombies alongside Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in “The Last of Us,” or I’d love to voice a character in Invincible over on Amazon. My little brother got me hooked on it plus I’m obsessed with Steven Yeun’s work. So let’s just say “The Invincible Last of Us,” that’s one show, right?……… but actually I’m gonna cheat one more time because “Abbott Elementary” is my shit.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
I’d love to be working in a distant place with a fantastic group of people creating something righteous. I just want to be creating. Also, I want a dog.
Catch Josh Bonzie in Saint X, streaming now on Hulu. Watch the trailer below.
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