Actor/producer Sean Riggs’, who hails from Chicago, Illinois, latest tour de force is an action thriller entitled “Lazarus.” The movie, from Samuel Goldwyn films, centers around a man [Riggs as “Ray Lazarus”] who is killed, but his death is only a brief affair. Upon regaining consciousness, he discovers he has been gifted with extraordinary powers that allow him to super-heroically fight the organization responsible for plunging his city into darkness. The premise revolves around being afforded the opportunity for a second chance.
“Lazarus” is directed by R.L. Scott, who previously worked with Sean on two other occasions; “Touye Pwen: Kill Point” and “Call Me King.” “Lazarus” also co-stars Costas Mandylor (“Saw IV”), Noel Gugliemi (“Training Day”) and R&B superstar Mya (“Chicago”). In addition, Sean Riggs’ filmography includes “S.W.A.T.” (2017), “If Loving You Is Wrong” (2014) and “Party Down” (2009).
First off, just for those that don’t know, why don’t you kind of take me back to the beginning for everyone? Tell me your whole inception. As an actor, when did those aspirations first begin for you?
The aspirations for being involved in action films goes back, all the way back to being a young troublemaker in Chicago and doing crazy things like stunts in my backyard and jumping off… just watching the VHS tape of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Raw Deal” or some crazy other action flick that he’s done or the movie “Action Jackson” with Carl Weathers.
I was a big illustrator too when I was young. I used to draw out a lot of action characters, dealing with Transformers and Thundercats. So I’ve had this in my heart for a long time that when I got older, I wanted to get involved with action films. And how it got into fruition being in Los Angeles, of course, you know it is the treacherous city and not all dreams work by you just walking down the street or even just have an opportunity to audition. Some of your dreams can come true by you going out and wielding the sword of your creativity and making it happen for yourself.
So before I wanted to get investments to be involved in filmmaking and making a project that I co-wrote, I wasn’t able to get the funds for it because I was asking a lot of investors and it didn’t go through. Years later and we finally started coming to this era where, equipment was accessible to us for a cheaper cost. Now, you just have to have great cinematographers that have a good eye how to work it.
So we ended up producing a film. I produced a film with Amin Joseph from John Singleton’s crime drama “Snowfall.” We did a movie called “Call Me King” about Haitian gun runners. And I played a gritty character in there named Grimm. That was really one of the first pivotal action roles that I had. I was doing my own stunts and doing my own fights. So I co-produced that with him and we got that done.
After that I approached director R.L. Scott and we talked. We wanted to do a super hero movie. We talked about it, we came up with this character and we thought it was really cool. We designed this whole particular world, we wanted to make it like a real comic book world.
But that took about six months of pre-production and this meant that I bought all the camera equipment. I was getting blessed with working on acting gigs at the same time like working with Tyler Perry, bought all of the camera equipment, had all of the locations laid out where we were going to go, all of the clothing; Arlene Flores was our costume designer out of Fox. She ended up opening the gateway to a ton of clothing that we were able to get for such a small cost with Fox Studios.
When you’re watching the film, it kind of takes place within like a few days. We wanted that to happen where you just follow the character and have a film where you can keep it grounded and more authentic even with the fight scenes. So that’s, in a nutshell, how it came to fruition and even though all of the relationships and the tribe around us; with me, R.L. Scott, Johnny Alexander [“SEAL Team”, “Avatar 2”], and André ‘China’ McCoy [“Matrix”]. We basically started in the beginning and then started building a team around it.
This is your third time working with director R.L. Scott. First of all, tell me how that connection initially came about and why do you feel the chemistry works so well between the two of you; actor and director?
Well, that started when I was all the way in Los Angeles and I saw a MySpace ad for a film that was being auditioned. R.L. Scott and his team were holding auditions for this film that Taimak Guarriello from “The Last Dragon” was supposedly a part of. Growing up, that was one of my number one films. I said, ‘I’m going to this audition and after I’m like going to meet this guy’ and I met R.L. and his wife.
I talked to them and I said, ‘Hey man, I’m into that too, me and you have the same vision. I love this, I haven’t found anybody that thought like me to make independent films, action films like the way that you want to do them.’ I had the same ideas and that’s how we connected. We co-wrote a film back then that didn’t get into fruition, we didn’t get the funding. And so we just kept coming on this journey.
So I kept connecting R.L. with people that I knew out here in Los Angeles, who one of them was Amin Joseph. We’ve been around each other for a long time and Amin said, ‘Okay, I want to come on and help get something done.’ And so that’s how that ended up happening. We went to go do Touye Pwen, we did “Call Me King.” And then after that, Amin had so many different things, opportunities that were opening up for him. And he served as a consultant at best with me with our movie “Lazarus.”
So I just made sure that preparation met opportunity to meet success. And then when the time came, I wasn’t going to sit there and say, ‘Oh, I’m not ready.’ So that’s how it came about. And then we came all the way to this one right here. So navigating it and being that teamwork, it really took a long time. It took a long journey.
So here we are with your latest film “Lazarus,” which is exclusive to Fox’s streaming service Tubi. First of all, it’s a great film! I had an opportunity of watching it and it’s wonderful. But before we get into that, kind of just without spoiling too much, just give someone that hasn’t seen it, maybe kind of a little background on it. What is the movie about?
It’s a guy who’s kind of have a tough past; military, ex-con. He comes to this particular area that’s in turmoil and now he wants to change his life around but this significant overlord of the city recruits gentlemen like yourself, he turns down the offer. But at the same time, he knows too much of the secrets and what’s going on with the city and he’s murdered. He loses his life because of his sacrificial offering to the city, he rather die than to kill in his city.
He is brought back by a fictional god and that fictional god gives him god-like powers where he can actually absorb and do things with the souls of his enemies. So with that, he goes on a tyrant to bring down those who have you know, deceived him and picked at his life. He kind of loses his memory in the beginning, you’ll see that with the character. And as he’s coming about the understanding of what really happened to him, he’s going on a tyrant to basically save the city that you see as Paradise City. But understanding also the powers that are with him in which gets stronger over time.
Well, that sums it up perfectly without giving away too much. Now, you play the title character, Ray Lazarus. Is there any correlation or are there any similarities between you and your character? You see anything in yourself in him or vice versa?
I surely do because a lot of us who to become, who we are supposed to be, the person who we are, has to die and that isn’t normally who we are. And that’s when we start finding out certain things about us and asking me as a Christian, I ask God like, ‘What’s going on?’ And what are these powers, what is this gift that you have that’s in me? What do you want me to do with it? And sometimes we have to go on that journey.
One of the biggest things that happened when I started producing this film is I had a lot of great producers that was in my corner and said, “Listen, man, you’re about to go walk through this tunnel. And when you get on the other side of the tunnel, you’re going to be someone different.” Well, guess what? That’s when I started to realize it didn’t matter because I was already that person. You just have to go through this tunnel of life.
And some of the things that you go through and all of the adversities that you face, all of the things that happened, the roadblocks that you’ve come to and what that is, is just training you to understand who you are in particular. And there, when you are on the other side of that, then yes, you do become this. You become who you are. You don’t become something different, you become exactly who you have meant to be. When you become who you are meant to be in this world, then wait until the world gets a load of you finally. That’s what I feel that’s synonymous with that character Ray Lazarus.
Okay. Well, also you have a great cast here with, of course, Costas Mandylor [“Picket Fences”, “Saw”], you have singer Mya among others. How was it working with the great ensemble such as what you had here on “Lazarus”?
It was incredibly great. I’m a fan of everybody that was working on this project, especially Costas Mandylor and Shane Brolly from “Underworld.” It’s like I said, I’m a big fan of action films myself. I’m a big fan of all of this. So to work with them simultaneously, I did the due diligence, even though I had all of these hats that I was wearing. I made sure that I took the time to go get coaching, to go sit there and make sure that I tapped into “Lazarus” so that every single time when I’m sitting there and I’m trying to, you know, do craft services another hat that I had to wear and when someone says today you’re acting, you have to be in character.
The people that I talk to on the phone; Costas, he was such an incredible guy. He’s got a great accent, he’s an incredible vessel of a thespian. Mya, incredible, humble even though she had a busy schedule. She was incredibly stoked about being a part of this project and she wanted that to be in her resume. And so she made it quite easy for us to book her, to get her involved through her management. And I thank her for that because she didn’t have to but she saw the vision early on. So she was the first person that we filmed.
Shane Brolly, of course, charismatic. He just saw this vision and he loved the world. He was so cooperative, everyone came to Fox Studios when we first had our wardrobe. We had a connection at the costume department at Fox right away. So I had everyone come to do their fittings, everyone showed up to do their fittings, everyone had a great time. So the love that people saw that was happening around them, they reciprocated that love back, that’s how it is.
If you’re moving around in passion and you love what you’re doing and you’re talking to people and they see that, then it’s easy for them to reciprocate it back because they see that you care. So they didn’t just see this project like, ‘We’re just going to get some money and then go on.’ I took care of everybody! I made sure that everybody got their payments. I took care of people the way that they were supposed to be taken care of. I basically turned the tide and change the narrative, not only just for a type of film like this but how indie filmmaking is done.
And also, I know we sometimes talk about this but you know there’s a stigma out there for even African-American filmmakers but I made sure that nobody doesn’t think that anymore, I guarantee you that. You come on production of mine, I bet you won’t say anything like that ever again. And I’ve heard people say things like that but I wanted people to understand that we all are people, we all are human, and let’s just all treat each other the same way. And now you can see that camaraderie happen in front of you and now that the stigma will change on everyone, so and that’s how it happened.
So what’s next for you? What’s to look forward to or look out for?
Well, someone asked me what’s the end game, there’s no end game. Just going to keep continuing on, seeing what the audience responds to “Lazarus.” We’re going to see what’s going to happen with the future of that. As an actor, I have the web TV series “Bosch” that’s coming up. You know this next season of “Bosch,” I think it’s coming up in the springtime. So be on the lookout for a lot of great work that I’ve been doing, as well as producing.
I want to thank you for taking the time out with us! And lastly, before I let you get out of here, can you give us a little shout out.
Yo, yo, yo, what’s going on? I am talking on the phone with my man, Todd Davis, from YoRaps.com, an incredible platform. I’m just so happy to be here. Yo, y’all represent, check in, tune in, listen to the interview and make sure you check out “Lazarus” on Tubi. Show your love and look for more stuff that’s coming from this universe!
Thanks again! Continued success to you and good luck in all future endeavors.