By Stephen Weir
We call him the Reacher Preacher, but everyone else in the GTA and the Caribbean knows him as Mr. Marvin Ishmael or Trini. Ishmael, a long-time Trinidadian Canadian author, actor, musician, playwright, director, and educator, is all that and more, but he is NOT a preacher. However, that might be about to change next month. Last December, his Toronto agent landed him a small part in the Amazon Prime series “Reacher Season Two,” and the fruit of that labor is about to air.
The action series, as reported by TheWrap (a leading Hollywood digital media news organization), is one of “Amazon Prime Video’s top five most-watched series ever in the U.S. and globally, according to Amazon, and stands as one of the most-binged original series ever on the streaming service.”
“Reacher,” starring Alan Ritchson, is based on the Jack Reacher book series written by US author Lee Child. The TV show, based on the best-selling books, is shot for the most part in Hamilton and the GTA. The second season kicks off on December 15th with the blessing of Father Ishmael.
“I play a priest in a small community, and Reacher comes to see me and check on the people in the town,” explained Ishmael. “It was great working with him (Alan Ritchson), and he truly is a gentle giant.”
“He stands 6ft 3 and works out all the time. He is huge. He is also very easy to talk to and has some great stories about the business.”
Ritchson’s size is an important feature for the series. A 5 feet 7 inches tall Tom Cruise was the first Jack Reacher on film, and while the film was not a flop, most felt he didn’t have the body for the role.
Ritchson was recently the big guy in “Fast X,” the 10th movie in the series of “Fast and Furious” car racing flicks. Teenagers might recognize his voice; he was Raphael in the two live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.
When he flexes his muscles, one expects the T-shirt to rip. He oozes toughness.
“You don’t throw my friends out of helicopters and live to tell the tale,” is the Reacher teaser movie quote that defines what happens in the 8-part series. When men that he served with in the Army start being tossed from helicopters over a California desert, Reacher packs his suitcase and goes after the gang killing his friends.
As in all Reacher stories, the hero always wins the day, and almost everyone with speaking roles gets killed. The producers couldn’t bring themselves to kill a priest, so Ishmael gets to live another day, although it is unlikely that the vicar-playing actor will be needed in Reacher Three, which is currently being filmed in Hamilton.
Marvin Ishmael wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to come back, but it is obvious that he is busy almost every day of the week. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) notes he has worked on over 64 films, cartoons, and TV shows, including Degrassi and the television series “Astrid and Lilly Save the World.”
Not listed by IMDb but known and loved by viewers across the Caribbean back in the late ’80s is the 39-episode soap opera “No Boundaries.” Starring names like Karla Gonzalez and Sherlock Romani, the weekly show was shot in Port of Spain, telling the stories of life from a T&T point of view.
Marvin Ishmael is thinking a lot about “No Boundaries” over 35 years later. He is heading back to Trinidad in early January to hold a press conference to announce the rebirth for the classic soap opera.
“We want to create a four-part series of ‘No Boundaries’ set in this century,” explained the Brighton, Ontario-based movieman. “I will be involved in directing, and I do have a role on screen.”
As a preacher? We ask. “No,” he laughs. He says he will play a businessman who is married and has a mistress and dreams of bigger things!