US-based Liberian actor Montel Swaray’s interest in drama started when he first watched a group of actors performed a scene at his father’s place of business, back home in Liberia. However, he did not get the chance to pursue this interest of his until he got to the United States. Once in America, Montel pursued his acting dreams of a career that now spans over 20 films and TV series in Hollywood and Nollywood, as well as appearances in music videos of headlining American and Liberian music artists.
Born and raised on Lynch Street, Monrovia, on November 7, 1985, Swaray had a normal childhood life with both parents, but could not have had much due to the civil war that caused the loss of thousands of lives. As a result, the actor and his family fled to the neighboring Guinea for refuge until the war was over. There, he stayed for several years and later came back to Liberia to start a whole new life. With time, Montel got back to doing what he loved best, playing basketball.
He played for his high school team College of West Africa (CWA) and went on to play for First Assembly of God mission School (AGM) and later to the big league where he played for Holly Family Basketball Team. Due to his incredible skills and strength he accepted an offer to play with a premier club team Invincible Eleven, I.E and within that same year they went on to win the National Championship.
So far the aspiring Hollywood actor has acted in over 20 films and worked with the likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (best known for her role in the popular TV show Seinfeld) in the HBO hit series Veep, as well as a few Nollywood actors. He is also cast in several music videos, including Jill Scott’s “Shame” and Jodi’s “Love You”.
His filmography includes Family Secret, Vengeance, If All Men Are Dogs, Treacherous Heart Temperamental, Apophis, and The Blacklist. Montel also co-wrote, produced and starred in Liberian blockbuster drama, Delude.
As if America can’t get enough of this Liberian native, he also featured a commercial for a luxury car company called the Premier Luxury Rentals (PLR) that should be aired on various TV stations nationwide soon.
Montel’s incredible talents have earned him few awards as best actor recently and over the past years for some of his movies and he has also been in news magazines like African Mirror and Liberian Stars Views (LSV) as most attractive and handsome celebrity.
Montel Swaray is now based in Pennsylvania/New York where he’s currently working on his new movie. He tells LIB Life that he does not party much; that he’s a bit on the nerdy side and enjoys watching Animal Planet and Crime mystery shows. Also he has an old soul and loves old school music from the 80s as well as Liberian music but admits being a horrible dancer! “But I’m working on it,” he says.
Enjoy LIB Life’s Q&A with one of Liberia’s hottest talents on the silver screen, Montel Swaray.
LIB Life: You kind of grew up in Liberia; tell us the difference between your growing up in Liberia and that of the United States.
Montel: Growing up in Liberia was great and normal until the civil war began. This caused limits to many opportunities I would have experienced growing up as a young man. On the other hand, living in the United States, has brought a lot more experiences and opportunities in pursuing my goals.
LIB Life: And did you attend any acting classes?
Montel: Yes I attended acting school at the New York Film Academy a few years back, to perfect my craft as an actor.
LIB Life: How long have you been into the movie business and when did you first start acting?
Montel: I have been in the movie business for about 3 years now. I first started acting in grade school, taking part in school plays and talent shows.
LIB Life: You just won best actor of the year at the Liberian Entertainment Awards. Tell us how does it make you feel and what should we expect from your latest work?
Montel: I’m excited! This award means so much to me, also it humbles me to know that Liberian people and other loyal fans are supportive. This motivates me to work harder. For my latest movies, expect great entertainment, drama, action and great mysteries.
LIB Life: All right! You’re such a brilliant actor, what’s the inspiration behind all of that talent?
Montel: Thank you. To me acting is a way I chose to express myself through the characters I play. The inspiration behind all of this comes from within. I’m very self motivated and goal oriented. I also get my inspirations from my past and my people.
LIB Life: You acted in the movie Vengeance, which I assume is your first movie right? Can you please give us a little synopsis of the movie and tell us about your experience.
Montel: Vengeance is actually my second film. Family Secret is my first film. My experiences on both sets were great and fun, it was like being around the family.
LIB Life: You’ve also gotten the chance to work with the American super star Jill Scott. What was the first thought that came to mind when you found out you were going to be working along with her?
Montel: I was very excited about this! I love working with different artists; it helps me grow an understanding relationship with people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. This in turn gives me the knowledge of treating everybody the same no matter the color, religion or sex.
LIB Life: That’s really great to know. Your philosophy is “make a positive difference in society”. What can you say have been some of the positive difference you’ve made, especially in Liberia?
Montel: I have been working in hand with a few Liberian charity organizations in order to give back to our beloved country Liberia. Also I’m a motivational speaker to young Liberians around the world.
LIB Life: And how many movieshave you done so far?
Montel: I’ve done about 20 films or more.
LIB Life: Wow! That’s really awesome. Now that you’re such a success, what plans do you have for your motherland Liberia?
Montel: I have a lot of plans for Liberia. Some include more charities, business and film making in order to help our entertainment industry and so on.
LIB Life: Besides acting, what are your hobbies?
Montel: I love playing basketball, working out, watching and studying films, reading and writing.
LIB Life: Do you have any plans on working with any of the Liberian actors/actress back home? If yes who?
Montel: Sure, I would love to work with my fellow Liberian actors; I believe we have a lot we can accomplish together. The truth is, I would like to work with everyone.
LIB Life: And what would you say are your short term and long-term goals?
Montel: My short-term goal is to complete my study. And my long-term goal is to become a successful Liberian Hollywood actor while help out my country in the process. I also would like to take this time out to thank the Observer Newspaper for their hard work and consistency in serving the Liberian people.
LIB Life: Well, we say thank you too for you time off your busy schedule and we wish you all the best, Montel.