Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Dancehall Queen Cherine’s singing springboard

Published:Friday | October 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Cherine Anderson.
Cherine Anderson in a scene from the Haffi Come Back visuals.
Cherine Anderson
Cherine Anderson
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Somewhere during the shooting of the 1997 movie, Dancehall Queen, someone asked a then 13-year-old Cherine Anderson if she was going into acting or singing. Co-director of the film about how a higgler by day, Marcia (Audrey Reid) became a dancehall queen at night to change her circumstances, Don Letts, said to Anderson "just do both".

And she did, going on to star in the 2003 One Love with Ky-mani Marley and release a number of songs, including Shine on Jamaica, Skin to Skin, Coming over Tonight (with Chuck Fendah), Kingston State of Mind and Talk if Yuh Talking. Some were on the 2009 The Introduction - Dubstyle EP.

Anderson tells The Gleaner that during the Dancehall Queen shoot, she wanted to know how a movie was made.

"I am a process person, putting things together," Cherine said. "There are so many moving parts to make it work."

"I also learnt a lot from the other actors, especially Audrey Reid and Paul Campbell, as well as the directors. I was really like a sponge. I was fascinated by the actors but equally fascinated by the directors, I really love the process of film making."

Taking many looks from behind the camera and talking to the lighting people, among others, paid off, as Anderson direct the videos for her song Shine on Jamaica, Haffi Come Back, How We Living and Kingston State of Mind herself.

"The person behind the scenes sets the stage for the actors," Cherine noted.

She was one of about 100 girls who auditioned for the role of Marcia's older daughter, Tanya. So the Wolmer's High School for Girls third former was not the only cast baby, as Anika Grayson played her younger sister, Tasha. In the film Marcia's friend Larry - Uncle Larry to the children - took a sexual interest in Tanya.

Having been well trained as a member of the Ashe ensemble, Anderson used that experience in the role, but there was a real-life situation that also informed her portrayal of Tanya. Anderson told The Gleaner that "playing the role of Tanya during that time was bitter sweet. My training with Ashe helped, but in terms of truly tapping into the emotions of the character I pulled from what was going on in and around me at the time. On screen the character Tanya was molested by her mother's boyfriend and in real life one of my dearest friends was molested. And, so a lot of the emotion that was poured into the character Tanya was raw, confusing, painful, just something that was incomprehensible for me at that age."

Anderson said "I have been in front of the camera since primary school", but also noted that acting for film and theatre are very different. Still, there was nothing like we were in the middle of a scene and the director had us start over. I think a lot of the kinks were worked out before."

She has not watched Dancehall Queen in about a decade, Anderson tending to spend more time looking ahead in all her artistic work. Still, one of her favourite scenes is where the dancehall queen reveals herself as Marcia to a shocked Larry. "In the end, is she win," Anderson said.

Although Anderson had been singing before, one of the Dancehall Queen spin-offs was that it propelled her career. Anderson said "...it also introduced me to the directors Rick Elgood and Don Letts, who would also work on my second film One Love. It was on set of Dancehall Queen that the directors discovered that I could sing. And when they started writing the script for One Love, at the time I was a sixth form student, I was introduced to the writer the late Trevor Rhone as well as other major players.

It also set the foundation for my music career. It was around the premier of the film that I met my now manager and business mentor Patrick Lindsay who introduced me to Sly & Robbie. I have been under the legends' musical mentorship and Patrick's business mentorship ever since."

Scripts have come Anderson's way since Dancehall Queen and One Love, but she has passed on the projects. "It did not make sense... It has to be something special to take me away from all I love to do," Anderson said.