Names are prophetic and powerful. They kind of shape a person, just like those great men and women of faith that carried the weight of their names. Ricardo means “powerful”. The P. is for Paris. I think altogether my name means “powerful, firm ruler, and wise”. I don’t think my mother thought about the meanings, or where the names derived from when she named me.
Acting was more like my calling, just part of my purpose. I love acting any role that stretches me, I learn from, and I can give humanity and truth to. For me, to inspire or touch people is my purpose and ministry, changing people’s lives through the power of art. If they hear love, joy, peace, hope, that’s the voice of God.
When I was young, I was always performing in some capacity. As I got older, it was an avenue that helped me to be my true self while I was learning about the world around me, and about humanity.
My career started out in theatre. I studied performing arts at Harrow College, and then went to Buckinghamshire New University to do a BA Honours in performing arts, film, TV, and stage.
I did a lot of school and college productions before I turned professional. Theatre grounds you as an actor and performer, and gives you a foundation like no other; so I’ll always have a love for theatre work, though I’m transitioning into more film and TV. They immortalise you, and people these days associate acting with those media more. There is nothing like the live experience, though; so I felt it deeply when the pandemic forced a country lockdown.
Humanity is full of layers. It isn’t black and white. There’s a lot of complex areas, and it’s both captivating and beautiful. As an actor, you are just a vessel or a canvas to carry all these things.
I’ve been inspired by Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Whoopi Goldberg, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, my dear brother Malachi Kirby, Michael Jackson, because he was from a small town in Indiana, but became one of the major stars in the ’90s and broke down a lot of doors for black artists. His attention to detail in performance brought music to another level. As an actor, you can take inspiration from a musical artist because of that creativity, and because he used his platform for social and political causes.
Another thing is how easily he crashed down from the highest point. It doesn’t matter how famous you are: you’re not exempt from the possibility of being crushed by life. Another generation will look back and find more things to discover about his life and achievements.
Faith has enabled me to survive in this business: faith in God through Christ Jesus. I trust in him that he has a purpose regarding my life and career, and he knows what is best for me. I also need to have faith in myself, my abilities, my value. I have business skill-sets to help me create my own work. I no longer want to just survive, but thrive. I’m also trying to help other people who come from where I come from.
Last year wasn’t easy, but I had to trust God and fight to keep his peace that surpasses all understanding. I created opportunities for myself. I tried to keep creative and active. I took time to work on myself. That is the best work one can do. But my industry and other industries were affected badly by this stuff.
Shakespeare is a universal thing, regardless of race, class, gender. Shakespeare gives anyone a unique foundation, and I was able to work on a project with Mark Rylance. I have Shakespeare in my toolbox. He had a rich way of words and showed us the complexities of being human.
I’d love to play Hamlet, Othello . . . any of them; but those particular characters are very interesting to me. I would love to just dive into their skin.
There’s more “colour-blind” casting, but there’s still an underlying issue when it comes to race representation in the arts and different institutions. I would be lying to say things have magically changed and it’s easier. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done for casting to be truly reflective of our society today.
Although I grew up in a single-parent home, being raised by my mum, I had a strong support system. My mother and family did what they could with what they had. They are very giving people.
I think God was always present. I just never knew it at the time. But, when I was 18 or 19, my life changed radically. When I found God through Christ Jesus, I had a desire to learn more about God’s love and grace. As I grew in my faith, I started to see more of God’s divine working in my life.
I was always seeking in my teenage years, but my idea of Jesus was very negative, shaped by the mainstream. My uncle was adamant that I came to his wedding, and they were praying for me; so maybe then a seed was planted. I had a desire to go to church, and I gave my life to God.
It’s not been an easy path, as a young man, seeking faith in a world that is against Christ, but it’s shaped me and kept me grounded. I was lost, into so many different things. I didn’t have that sense of self, didn’t have a father-figure, trying to figure out what it is to be a man. God is the ultimate parent. I didn’t know that he was working in my life, protecting me with his grace.
I’ve gone through a lot, but my identity comes from who I am in God before anything else. I am a child of God. That foundation makes me have a sense of self. So it doesn’t matter what happens or not in life: success or failure, I’m loved by God.
Injustice in all its forms in the world makes me angry.
Living my purpose makes me happy, and when other people are inspired to live their purpose through me and are impacted. Love lives for ever. It’s about the lives we impact.
This last 18 months hasn’t been about material, but spiritual, seeds: words of encouragement, prayers I value. I’ve learned that people will change on you, hurt you sometimes — and sometimes it is the ones we most love and trust. But you should never lose yourself in the process. Stay true to yourself, hold on to yourself. Never let external stuff change you negatively. How you respond is key.
Our lives are not back to normal, but I do not allow Covid and the stuff beyond my control to change me. I have to change my outlook on things. I adjust to things but I do not conform. It is about doing what is right. Right will always be right and wrong is wrong. Do the right thing in life, and everything else will fall in place.
The voice of God at the greatest level you can take it — in the literal or metaphorical sense — is the best sound to me.
As long as there is life there is hope.
I pray that I never lose God. I mean the connection. Sometimes, the cares of life can take you away from that sacred connection of God. The world, those that are hurting.
If I had to be locked in a church for a few hours, I’d want a party. But to keep it simple, I’d have King Solomon for his wisdom, David for his courage, Martin Luther King, Jnr, as there would be so much to learn, Michael Jackson, because he’s a hero.
Ricardo P. Lloyd was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.