This week, I had the pleasure of talking to Lyriq Bent about his involvement with the film ‘Acrimony’ and discuss his thoughts on his character, Robert, and so much more.
Acrimony is written, directed, and produced by the multi-talented Tyler Perry. The film reunites Perry and Henson for the first time in nine years in this suspenseful thriller about a woman who takes revenge on her unfaithful husband. Starring in the film are Oscar® nominee Taraji P. Henson, Lyriq Bent, and Crystle Stewart, along with newcomers Ajiona Alexus and Antonio Madison. In Tyler Perry’s sexy and electrifying thriller, a faithful wife (Henson) is driven over the edge when it becomes clear she has been betrayed by her devious husband. The film arrived on Digital June 12 and on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand June 26 from Lionsgate. The Tyler Perry’s ‘Acrimony’ home entertainment release includes the never-before-seen “Unleashing Acrimony” featurette, which includes an exclusive interview with Tyler himself on what inspired him to write the film, a personal favorite of his to date.
The Knockturnal: In the film Acrimony, you play Robert, who essentially turns out to be a flawed human with big dreams. In what ways do you think your character relates to you if he does? Like for example, are there any similarities you found in how he approached his dreams and ambitions and your career?
Lyriq Bent: That’s good of you to see that comparison. For anybody who’s a dreamer, they can relate to Robert, in terms of the passion. Passion is something that is unknown in the center of what fuels it and when you’re passionate, you tend to kind of put on the blinders, a very very little bullet-hole vision. You just see the goal ahead. And, you just hunker down and just go. And, a lot of people get left behind in the life of people’s passion because you just don’t feel like you’re apart of their world. Because their emotionally either not available when you need them, which makes you feel like they don’t care or they’re not on the same page as you, emotionally, and so as a dreamer myself, there are similarities, emotional similarities. Because you just kind of put your head down and go for what you really feel like what your life’s about. So, yeah there is that similarity between myself and Robert in sense that there’s passion, for sure.
The Knockturnal: For a psychological thriller such as this, how did you prepare for the role, what was the process of getting into the mindset of your character?
Lyriq Bent: Honestly, it was from the moment I decided that I was going to do this project, speaking to Tyler about the project. We shot the film in ten days. So, there wasn’t a lot of prep time for any of us, in terms of the actors, for myself or Taraji. Taraji was doing ‘Empire’ and I was shooting a series called ‘Mary Kills People’ and so it’s not like I had time to do that; I left from one show to the next, shot it, and then went back to my show. So, the preparation was raw. It was in the moment as it was being given because that’s the way it went down. It was an excellent experience. I could imagine that’s what it is like doing a play on Broadway where you’re given an emotion from somebody else and you’re just reacting off of what you’re given. It’s not rehearsed, it’s just raw and so I liked it for that reason. There was just real raw emotions and I call that truth. So, what you see is true. My truth, my version of it anyways.
The Knockturnal: For the film, I hear there was a time restriction in that you only had a few days to film, how difficult was it to film in such limited time or was there even any difficulty?
Lyriq Bent: It’s not that we didn’t have time to prepare, we were definitely prepared, just not in the conventional way. Prepared in the sense that we knew the task that was at hand, and we just went out and we did it; we didn’t try to control the emotion, or how the scene was going to play out, or how it was going to feel. We trusted each other in the sense that what was being given was just real, was raw. And, I think that was because we all respected each other as professionals and knew that we were bringing top shelf products. And, I think what it boiled down to was that there was just a lot of trust coming from different angles from people who didn’t really have strong relationships. I mean, Tyler and Taraji, this was their first film in like five years. And, they brought a relationship that worked in the past, but I think it’s more the respect of each other’s talents that made this film work because we had nothing else. We had nothing else but to respect each other’s talents and creativity. And, I think that resonated in the film.
The Knockturnal: The film is very complicated in that there seems to be no good or bad guy in the film; both characters Robert and Melinda seem to be very flawed. Is there a specific character you felt like could be blamed or do you think everyone was a little bit responsible?
Lyriq Bent: Well in every relationship, because this is a relationship, we’ve shown the world the relationship of two people and if you’re the type of person who believes that in a relationship there’s a right and a wrong then you’ll view this film as somebody was right and wrong. If you’re a person that has a certain understanding of how human nature works and the responsibility of each individual and how they affect each other and themselves or the people around them then you’ll have a totally different view on each character. So, for me, I was focused on keeping Robert honest in what he does. And, no judgment on what he does, know just fine what he does; everything he does is done with purpose. He does it because he believes that what he needs to do or wants to do or feels he needs to do. Why people do what they do? No one really knows until you sit with them and speak with them. So, if you were to speak with me as Robert, then I would have a certain justification for you. As the actor, I can only speak for myself personally for what I would do in situations like that. So, that’s what I think makes this movie so relatable, that each individual is going to find their own truth to the relationship scenario. So, yeah, I like this film for that reason. You have your own opinions.
The Knockturnal: What initially attracted you to the film?
Lyriq Bent: The conversation with Tyler. He gave me a call and spoke to me about this film. It was his version of ‘Gone Girl’. That it was intense, a psych thriller, and then when I read the script I saw other opportunities and possibilities to put certain imagery and certain films out there for us, especially in the black community, to embrace. Because it’s so taboo to talk about relationships and our emotions and every time we talk about it, we talk about it from a vantage point where we’re being strong and making strong decisions and kicking something to the curbs, and this-that-and-the-other, but we never talk about the other side: the hurt, the pain, the vulnerability that one feels because we feel, especially black folks, that’s a sign of weakness, vulnerability. So, we’re always putting on this strong front especially black women because they always have to be strong throughout history. And for me, Melinda is woman experiencing great hurt and pain and not angry, and so Tarjai did an excellent job in showing that pain and that hurt and how it drives her to point where she feels like she has no support around her which is why I love the idea of her talking to the psychiatrist because that’s also very taboo in our community. To talk to a psychiatrist means like you’re crazy, you’re mad, you’re losing your mind, and that’s not true so we got to break that taboo. So, a lot of things drew me to this project because I saw a lot of opportunity to touch on things that individuals could look at themselves and say ‘Wow. Ok, I can do that. I’m allowed to be vulnerable, I’m allowed to express certain pain and not feel like I’m weak.” So, these are the things that I enjoyed about the script that made me want to do this, this project.
The Knockturnal: You worked with a lot of powerhouses for this film, specifically Taraji P. Henson and Tyler Perry, so what was it like working with the two? Tyler as Director and Taraji as a costar?
Lyriq Bent: Tyler, as a director, was a great experience. I like his clarity, I like his conviction for his clarity. He knows what he wants which is great. You know, you always want your leader to be confident in the direction that he’s going. And so, that was reassuring and it was also intense because we shot is so quickly in the ten days that you didn’t really have time to think, you just did; you just reacted to what was given to you and you reacted to how you were feeling in that moment, it didn’t matter what the scene was if you emotions were at a place that’s what you had to go with because you didn’t have time to pull it back and go with something else because you were thinking the scene should be this way or that way. The scenes played out the way the truth allowed it to play out, so that was good. And, working with Taraji allowed that to happen because she’s such a professional and she such a good actor that you were kind of just given permission to surrender and not feel like you had to justify whatever it is you were going with because the only choice you made making this film was to go with what you were feeling, you didn’t have time to chose between this emotion or that emotion, what came out was what was there and what was raw. That was an experience that I had that definitely for the first time; it was a great first experience and something I would like to do again with Taraji. I would love to work with her again and Tyler. Simply because of that experience. And I think the experience would be equal if not greater because that’s just how I believe Tyler works. That was my first time working with him on a film and do I want to shoot a film again in ten days? No. But, if it had to be 15 days or whatever, if it had to be shot in a certain period of time, I know I would be able to do it because of this film that gave me great confidence in my ability and in the abilities of others, the trusting of others who take what we do seriously. And, Tyler and Taraji definitely take what we do seriously and they’re very talented in their respective fields.
The Knockturnal: Are there any other upcoming projects of yours you’d like to highlight or share?
Lyriq Bent: Yeah, currently shooting ’She’s Gotta Have It’ season two. But also look out for a film coming out on Netflix shortly called ’Nappily Ever After’ it’s a film that I did with Sanaa Lathan. It’s about a community of women and about that of their hair and that the hair doesn’t make the person, it’s not what makes you beautiful. And, she cut her hair off, cut her hair to do this film and she looked incredible. And, to this day she still wears her hair short, I think she looks gorgeous. And, I think in her doing that, it gives young girls growing up the confidence in knowing that there’s beauty in their own hair when it’s not something that they have to cover up with weaves and chemicals and what-not. And, the idea that the media has put into the minds of especially young women of what beauty is I think we’ve shattered that and we have to continue to shatter that because that is not the truth from where beauty stems from. So look out for ’Nappily Ever After’ and a film I did with Richard Dreyfuss called ‘Astronaut’ it’s a nice family-fun film. That will be coming out this fall as well in theaters. And, yeah, keeping it going, trying my best to stay active in a space that can be daunting and stagnant if you’re not careful.
Be sure to check out ‘Acrimony’ not out on Digital, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand from Lionsgate. Also, you can find updates and more about Lyriq Bent on his Instagram and Twitter (@LyriqBent)!