Inspiration in the shadows
MEET CORY BOWLES
Shooting the breeze with Cory Bowles is always a wild ride.
In the nearly 30 years I’ve called him a friend, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. When we met back in the ’90s, he was known as Cheklove: one of the MCs in the early Canadian hip-hop group, Hip Club Groove.
In conversation, his focus slips seamlessly from one thought to another, sliding back again before darting off in another direction. And he’s always got something to say that makes it worthwhile to pay attention — if you can keep up with the mental gymnastics.
Like his train of thought, Bowles tends to exist in the in-between. A multi-disciplinary artist, he carves out time and attention for many competing talents. Though best known for portraying Cory on the Canadian mockumentary Trailer Park Boys, Bowles is also a writer, actor, director, dancer, MC, musician and activist — and more. Geographically, he also straddles worlds. A Nova Scotian at heart, he’s currently based in Toronto. Treating the big city as home base, he’s spent much of the past year travelling the world, promoting Black Cop — the award-winning 2017 feature he wrote, directed and released through Fine Devils Films, a company he runs with co-founder and producer, Aaron Horton.
Leonardo da Vinci is credited with saying, “A grey day provides the best light,” and Bowles finds his inspiration in the shadows. His work digs into the overlooked, and shines light on facets of issues often left unexplored.
“I've always explored relationships, the grey area of things. Especially now in this day and age, everything’s black and white, yes or no, liberal or conservative,” he says.<QL>
Against the grain
For Bowles, it's not about playing devil's advocate, it’s exploring the things we can't easily explain, try as we might. That, he finds, is where stories lie.
“One of Bowles’s strengths is his sense of right and wrong and a willingness to take in injustice and intolerance and put it back out in a creative way for people to chew on,” says Jeff Wheaton, a cinematographer who has worked with Bowles repeatedly over the years. “At the same time, he understands things aren't so regimented into right and wrong. There’s a spectrum. It’s one thing I’ve always admired about him.”
“He’s such an artist,” says Horton, his friend and business partner. “He always wants to be making something, be it a film or a dance or, you know, food. He’s so passionate about cooking. He loves his plants. Loves to read. There aren’t enough hours in the day for him; there’s so much that he wants to do and so much that he does. His book shelf is just, like, brimming with books about film and art and history and everything else. He’s a sponge.”
With 2019 just around the corner, Bowles is harnessing the attention directed his way with the success of Black Cop to lay groundwork for future projects that fuel those passions. Currently, he’s writing, and reading studio-attached scripts that have been sent his way, looking for those with the undefined elements that steal his attention and fire his imagination.
Bowles wants to bring another, larger, production home to Nova Scotia if Fine Devils gets the chance. Horton agrees.
“It’s a no-brainer to shoot here as much as possible. If not Nova Scotia, then hopefully on Canadian soil. A lot of what he writes takes place here. And there are so many people we love to work with. If we could continue to do projects in Nova Scotia for the rest of our lives, certainly that would be our hope.”
Ultimately though, Bowles simply wants to make good work so that opportunities keep rolling in.
“Every time you do something, a different element opens up when you have any, even minor, success,” he says. “I feel very blessed. I’ve had to make a lot of decisions in the last year — decisions that, two years ago, I never thought would be possible.
One of the biggest challenges he has faced in his career is learning to trust himself. He intends to encourage others who follow a similar path, the way so many supported him. For now, he urges, “Embrace failure, and see what’s around you.”