Firstly a huge congratulations on your role in Desert Dancer. What a wonderful film to be part of both culturally and artistically.
Q. For those people that don’t know Reece Ritchie (mad lot) what 10 words best describe you?
A. Oh crikey! err.. you’re probably better to ask someone else that one. Here goes, I’ll try to be as fair as possible. I think I’m, loving, determined, conscientious (sometimes to a fault), introspective, convicted, ambitious, cynical, playful, devoted, and bold.
Q. How did you get involved in the Arts? What were your first experiences?
A. Well like a lot of people it kinda grew at high school. I think my teacher spotted before I did that I wasn’t getting enough juice out of the standard GCSE classes. I remember getting frustrated with how no one was taking it that seriously – I think it was like PE for a lot of kids. So she took me to one side and suggested we did plays out side of classes that the parents could come and watch. That was kind of the beginning, then National Youth Theatre and the rest is what happened next! The bug grew for me when I went to london and realised there were plenty of other people my age who were just as or if not more enthusiastic than even I was. I developed as an actor a lot there.
Q. How important do you think diversity is in the arts and why?
A. This is still such a baited topic I think. I mean it depends what end you’re coming from. Of course its a non question in so many ways in that obviously we need diversity in everything, but in truth there is still a war being fought in terms of equal opportunity and fair representation of ethnic minorities. Its fascinating to watch peers and their meandering through this crazy business and to see the roles they are offered, or not. I had a meeting with perhaps one of the biggest hollywood directors there has been, and whilst looking at my CV he said ‘you’ve mostly done prehistoric stuff’. I nearly retorted, ‘Well I did audition for the other stuff too.’ I think it’s not so much that there is a need for diversity in the arts, I think it’s there, I think it’s about the way diversity is used. If you write a role that’s a blonde surfer dude who’s lived on Malibu beach all his life of course you’re not going to pay a casting director in Spain. It’s a very complex topic and I think a lot of it starts with the writer/studio heads. Ironically ethnically diverse films have been proven to be the most economically lucrative, yet studio’s, or at least on the most part, are still making old school choices.
Q. In your film ‘Desert Dancer’ young people risk their lives to rebel against laws forbidding dance. What advice would you give to someone wanting to be involved in the arts who might be meeting disapproval due to cultural beliefs?
A. I can’t presume to know what to tell someone in that position to be honest. I mean the whole reason I wanted to make Desert Dancer is because the notion of a restraint on self expression was alien to me. I guess we all have such drastically different upbringings and circumstances. I think my input on that one would be that I’ve found when something feels right it almost always is. We are all vessels of expression in one way or another, some of us crave it more than others, but yeah it’s a great shame to knowingly quash something that is awake in you every morning before even you are. Passion is rare and I say chase it down and don’t let the flame go out.
Q. Have you had experiences or witnessed this happen first hand?
A. The only experience I have had with any kind of restraint on my pursuit of being an actor is the occasional small mindedness of someone else who has shied away from their own dream for whatever reason. But this has been very rare, and much outweighed by the general positivity and support of those around me. I think it’s always a uphill battle if you are breaking from trends or going after something unknown because the road isn’t yet mapped, and there aren’t answers to give those around you who want to know ‘the plan,’ I’d say to anyone going after it to just keep going and to listen to anyone who has done it already.
Q. How do you think this belief can be changed from an artistic point of view?
A. The beauty of anything artistic is that it has the capacity to connect with us and evoke in us emotions that we perhaps locked away or don’t often exhibit. Making Desert Dancer was a treat in that it brought people out of themselves like no other film I’ve been involved in. Essentially it’s a story of a dancer or group of dancers who are oppressed, yet so many people from so many varied walks of life approached me after seeing the film and expressed their own alignment to Afshin’s journey. Stories that were entirely unrelated to dance. Beliefs are changed everyday because of art, little or much, that’s why its vital we plough on and encourage new young artists to make their voices heard.
Q. What’s next for Reece Ritchie?
A. I have a film called ‘Lies We Tell’ being released this year, got to play a spoilt rich kid, which was fun! Had some fun scenes with the wonderful and generous Gabriel Byrne, he was such a joy to work with. As well as that, I’m developing my own work and getting more involved on the production side, I’ve written a feature and am looking to direct in the near future also!