2008-09-26 / Community

Rockaway's Ringgold Takes 'Notorious' Role

By Nicholas Briano

Sean Ringgold (center) is flanked on his left by the film's star, Jamal "Gravy" Woolard, playing Notorious B.I.G., and Derek Luke on his right, who is playing Sean Combs. Ringgold, a Rockaway native, plays Suge Knight in "Notorious," the biopic of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. Sean Ringgold (center) is flanked on his left by the film's star, Jamal "Gravy" Woolard, playing Notorious B.I.G., and Derek Luke on his right, who is playing Sean Combs. Ringgold, a Rockaway native, plays Suge Knight in "Notorious," the biopic of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. There has never been a time in Sean Ringgold's life when he backed down from a challenge or turned his head away from a life changing opportunity.

It's that kind of attitude and drive for success that has led him from bodyguard to soap star and now to a role in a major motion picture.

This coming January you can see Rockaway's own Ringgold appear on the big screen as Suge Knight, the CEO and co-founder of Death Row Records in the Notorious B.I.G. biopic, "Notorious."

Sean Ringgold is cast as the controversial record executive who played a pivotal role in the east and west coast rap feud of the mid- 1990s hip-hop scene. The film is directed by George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor) and also features Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Friday Night Lights) playing Sean Combs, and screen newcomer and Brooklyn based rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard as Notorious B.I.G. Angela Bassett (Akeelah and the Bee, Mr. 3000) also appears as Voletta Wallace, Notorious B.I.G.'s mother.

Rockaway's Sean Ringgold in a recent photo. Rockaway's Sean Ringgold in a recent photo. Ringgold says working on the movie set was quite an experience. The film will highlight his growing talents as an actor, but still admits to being a little nervous about the premiere.

He believes, "I won't say I am fearful, but more curious. I know I will definitely have some butterflies, but it will also be an experience for me."

While growing up in Rockaway, Ringgold has accomplished a variety of feats. He started by guarding the lives of Rockaway's thousands of beach goers as a lifeguard. After several state arm wrestling championships, Ringgold decided he would go back to guarding the lives of people, but this time as a professional bodyguard. It was while working this gig that Ringgold would stumble upon the chance of a lifetime.

It was right after those arm wrestling championships when he landed a security/bodyguard job on the Black Entertainment Television Network (BET) working on the hit show "106 and Park," which also led to additional bodyguard work with such stars as Ludacris, whom he accompanied to Africa, LL Cool J, Reggie Miller, Tom Cruise and Ashanti, just to name a few.

Ringgold started making a name for himself while working at BET. This led him to break into acting in 2006, when he was cast in the soap opera, "One Life To Live," where, yes, he plays a bodyguard. His reoccurring role features him as Shaun, a bodyguard and friend to one of the show's stars. A role, he says, that has helped propel him to bigger and better things.

"The experience has been valuable for me," he said. "It has taught me how to memorize a lot of dialogue in a short time period."

Ringgold can also be spotted on dozens of television commercials for such top companies as Boost Mobile, Dunkin Donuts and Burger King. Ringgold's other accomplishments include an oncamera appearance in "American Gangster" and a spot on television's "Gossip Girl."

So how did Ringgold manage to move from a Rockaway Beach lifeguard to an up-and-coming celebrity?

Ringgold credits his success to a certain determination to never let opportunities slip through his grasp. But at the same time he is grateful for those opportunities that came his way.

"Many people can't break into the business the way I have, I am fortunate for that," he said. "I am also proud to say that I accomplished everything on my own and never asked anyone in the business for personal favors to help my career."

Ringgold, a graduate of Junior High School 180 and Queens Vocational High School, says he was planning to be an electrical engineer before landing on the fast track to success as an arm wrestling champ and bodyguard. He credits his Rockaway upbringing to part of his success.

"If it was for Rockaway I don't think I would be in this spot today," he said. "I would never be as diversified of a person, which has helped me in my career."

"I also want kids in Rockaway to know that I was once just like them, but you must hang around the right people in order to stay out of trouble, something I learned myself growing up here."

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