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Interview

Lisa Bonet

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Where we saw her first: Bonet started auditioning for commercials at the tender age of 9. "At that point my dream was to act," she said. "But the business was so different then. There was little opportunity for young people of color. Now it seems like everyone is an actor." After several ads and guest-starring roles on such TV shows as St. Elsewhere and The Two of Us, Bonet came to the fore as one of the kids in the Huxtable clan, the outspoken teenager Denise on the popular NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. Bonet left the show in 1987 to appear opposite Mickey Rourke in Alan Parker's Gothic thriller Angel Heart and returned to episodic TV in a Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World. That year she married musician Lenny Kravitz and gave birth to a daughter.

Parenting over performing: Within two years on the set of A Different World, Bonet opted to leave the show and spend more time with her newborn. "It was a huge turning point in my life," said Bonet. "I wanted to be a good mother. My daughter accelerated my growing up. I was just 21 years old. It was really a process of being dedicated to just being authentic. Checking myself. I think when people become parents it's probably the hardest job in the world to do really well. To be present, genuine, and loving with everything that life throws one's way is one of the most moving things to me."

Back to business: To make ends meet in the mid-'90s, Bonet appeared in made-for-TV and direct-to-video productions. She made her return to the big screen in the thriller Enemy of the State with Gene Hackman and Will Smith, and as one of John Cusack's girlfriends in High Fidelity. Said Bonet, "I choose to work in films with directors and actors I feel I am in good company with. I don't have a lot of recent experience, and I find that sometimes my mind gets in my way of creating some type of freedom as an actor. I bring my stuff to work, and it's hard to lie down when a camera is right in your face. I have such respect for people who deliver such great and honest performances, because it's not an easy task."

What's down the road: Bonet next appears in Dreamworks' Biker Boyz based on the New Times article of the same name by Michael Gougis. Described as an action-packed contemporary Western on wheels, Biker Boyz revolves around the world of underground motorcycle clubs and an undefeated racer (Laurence Fishburne) whose dominance is threatened by a young prodigy (Derek Luke). Bonet portrays Queenie, the president of her own all-female club and Fishburne's love interest. Said Bonet, "Characters, for me, develop as I read the script. That's the way it happened with this project. Learning to ride a bike, putting on the clothes, meeting the folks…. I met Tamika, the woman my character is based on, and she rides and races. All those things help me to prepare and bring some type of life to the character."

All grown up: Bonet is one of a select few who have successfully made the transition from child actor to working adult performer, and she remains appreciative of her acting opportunities. "I am very grateful and privileged to be a part of all this," she said. "I know that not many artists get the opportunity to be a lengthy visitor. In this film there are a bunch of people within whom I see myself. I think that is part of what makes it interesting now. When I look at Meagan [Good] and Derek [Luke], they are so fresh; they're so young. To go from being 9 or 15 to now, I am an aging woman. It's one thing to age anonymously, but to do it in front of everyone is very vulnerable to me."

Truthful words: "You know, everyone has to be true to him or herself," said Bonet. "That's what makes people unique. That's what makes somebody shine. My soul needs love, nature, adventure in order to bring back something, to have something to call on. I'm still surprised when I come back into this world. There has always been a part of me that's been like, What am I doing here? Do I belong? But it's what I do. I am an artist. I have the soul of an artist. I am grateful to explore, but it's a scary territory to explore because you do it in front of a billion people."

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