Bahamian Icon Award Winner, actress, director, writer, wife and mother are just a few parts of Patrice Johnson, an extraordinary woman. Her journey in the entertainment business has been nothing short of a roller coaster, a ride that she does not regret and one that changed her life completely. Johnson has dominated the industry for decades with her riveting performances and comedic antics that have left an impression on us one time or another. From plays, commercials and soap operas, to movies and even modeling, she has done it all with finesse and a special flare only she can bring to the stage.
However, like the best of us, she was not born a star. In fact, up until the age of 13, being on stage or any kind of platform was far from her mind. This may be hard to believe, but as a child Johnson was shy and insecure due to her weight and size. Her time of adolescence was encompassed by sadness and depression. Her mother tried all she could to help build Johnson’s self-esteem, to no avail. After a conversation with her boss, Wesley Butler, the then president of the Grand Bahama Players’ Guild, Johnson’s mother agreed for her to become a member of the drama group. This began her journey into the entertainment business.
She started out helping backstage and at the door. It was at one of the rehearsals, when the magistrate did not show up for her part, Johnson was granted the opportunity to showcase her talent. She was asked to read the part but had no need to, having been to all of the rehearsals; she already knew the play by heart. Boldly without a script, she went on stage and played the part, to Butler’s delight and amazement. That seemingly small performance paved the way for him to see more of Johnson’s talents and by age 15, she was in her first play where she played the role of a maid and mistress in Magistrate Asue Morning which set the tone for her path to becoming a superstar.
In addition to Butler, Johnson credits others such as Whitley Sears and Gwen Hamilton for their guidance in her life as performing became a part of her and she’s never held back since, landing roles in local and national plays. She even staged plays while off in school and requested friends to be a part of them. The wife and mother did not just grace The Bahamas with her talents, but expanded her horizons when she moved to Los Angeles, California, for two years. Not long after her arrival, an unfortunate mishap with her agent blessed her with an encounter with the agent of internationally acclaimed Bahamian actor Sir Sidney Poitier. After hearing of her dilemma, Sir Sidney stepped in and made several calls, which resulted in Johnson working with an acting coach.
She then became an extra on The Jackal, but just as working backstage did not last at home, neither did being an extra. Her talent exuded from her, making it hard for her to go unnoticed. Her acting coach suggested she be on television to which Sir Sidney simply replied, “Make it happen.” Eventually she was cast in commercials and starred in six episodes of The Young and The Restless, receiving certificates from Universal Studios for her performances.
It wasn’t long before the island girl got lost in the big city life.
“You know coming from the Islands we get caught up. We lose sight of what we’re all about and what we are. We’re over there and we’re trying to be like them and we want it so badly that we put down what we stand for to make it,” Johnson revealed. She eventually moved back to The Bahamas to refocus. Her return was not in vain nor was it wasted. She had come home with so much knowledge and experience that she created the Educating Through The Arts Awards (ETTA), taking the Grand Bahama Players’ Guild to the next level and became president.
Johnson had a large fan base. Her intention of elevating the drama group turned sour and was not accepted by all in the industry. In light of what was happening, she took a break for a year. Her year off was to the detriment of the Grand Bahama Players’ Guild. It hurt her to see the Guild die.
“It is a part of me,” said Johnson. “I live and breathe the culture, this is our way of expressing ourselves.” Johnson sees performing arts as a platform to educate, empower and reach someone who is hurting, not just entertain. “It’s a talent that you have but it is also a gift from God. I believe I have a purpose.”
She believes part of her purpose had been fulfilled when she learned years later that one of her performances had changed the future of a severely depressed young woman. Though Johnson was simply acting, she learned that the character she was playing at the time had assured the woman that she was not alone. The actress then realized just how much power was in such an underrated profession.
All Johnson wants now is to pass the baton on to the next generation of actors.
“We need to show them the right way and the best way, so the culture doesn’t die; so the theatre doesn’t die,” Johnson said, while urging young thespians to pour themselves into their character. To live, breathe and sleep their character.
“Plays don’t start when the curtains open, they start from the moment you take the script,” she said.
Johnson would love for The Grand Bahama Players’ Guild to be revitalized, but in the meantime she is content working with Gea Pierre and Out of the Ashes Entertainment. She won the 2016 Bahamian Icon Award in the Entertainment category for her role as “Ingrid” in Pierre’s play, Perfect In Weakness. Her impressive directing skills in Pierre’s latest play, Crazy Love, won the 2016 Bahamian Icon Award for Best Live Ensemble.
Johnson has had an amazing ride and even though there were bumps in the road she is convinced she is walking in her purpose and wouldn’t change anything. She has drawn lessons from the hard times and holds strong to the belief that God will not leave her to fight her battles alone.