Guns star Clé Bennett finds success through focus

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      Try and ask Canadian actor Clé Bennett about what he does on his downtime. What you’ll probably get is a chuckle as he explains to you why he doesn’t really have any downtime—a problem most actors would dream of having.

      “I’m an artisan I guess,” Bennett tells the Straight by phone from his native Toronto, where he returned from filming Barney’s Version with Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in Rome. “I love doing things that are creative and keeping myself busy.”

      Bennett also has a starring role on Guns, a four-hour, two-part CBC miniseries (on September 6 and 7 at 8 p.m.) that looks at Canada’s mounting gun problem. The gritty drama follows four families caught up in the world of gun trafficking and the deep impact it has on their lives. Bennett plays Conrad Shannon, a street-level criminal recently released from jail who is looking to reprise his role as top dog on the streets.

      Watch the trailer for Guns.

      Comparisons have been made between Bennett’s character in Guns and his other show The Line where he plays Carlos, a drug dealer with an anxiety disorder. However, Bennett doesn’t see the similarities. That may be because he faced the challenge of filming both shows simultaneously while working hard to keep each character distinct from the other. “I really make a point of trying to keep all my characters different”¦I mean you can watch Carlos and at times you will laugh, but there is no moment where you would find the humour in Conrad.”

      His decision to take on these roles  aren't necessarily  happenstance. He clearly wants people to think beyond the status quo when watching him take on the role of a Conrad or Carlos.

      Bennett points out how shows like Guns can be beneficial in challenging stereotypes. “Here, when people talk about gun violence, there is always a spotlight pointed at the black community, but you can’t have gun violence without guns being readily available, and until now, no one has cared to ask where these guns are coming from, and this film, I think, will help redirect the light to that particular root of the problem so that it’s not just a black thing. It’s much bigger than that.”

      Bennett doesn’t see his characters as bad guys, but as rather people who don’t have any other options. “I don’t judge any of my characters. I don’t think of them as criminals,” he says sympathetically. “I try and get into their head, almost like a therapy session with my characters where I ask, ”˜Why are you doing what you are doing?’ and find out through studying the script and putting myself in their shoes.”

      Life isn't necessarily easy for an actor either, as options can also be limited. The roles are few and the competition is steep. But Bennett believes his ability to hone his concentration gives him an advantage. “I know some people talk about how I’m a talented actor but my biggest talent is my focus, my ability to just block everything out and keep an eye on the task at hand.”

      So just how does one become so focused on a project that nothing else matters?

      For Bennett, it’s all about physical activity. Keeping himself in shape and starting each morning with a workout gives him the high that the rest of us might seek elsewhere. “It just opens your mind. I get a kind of high from it and I don’t drink or smoke or anything, so I get all that from exercise.” He’ll even study his lines while running or cycling. He adds that practicing his lines while his body is in motion helps him remember them.

      The self-described “calm, cool, and collected” actor is keeping busy and looking ahead to Hollywood, but it may still be a while before he makes his way to the West Coast. “I definitely see myself in L.A. in the near future, but right now I’m focused on my work here.” he says. There’s that word again—focus—the key to Bennett’s thriving career. But then again the chiseled abs and beautiful smile don’t hurt either.