(Reprinted from O-Dark-Thirty/The Review Volume 5, No. 4—Summer 2017.)
Benjamin Busch is an award-winning writer, actor, photographer, film director, former United States Marine Corps officer who served two tours of combat duty in Iraq, and the author of Dust to Dust: A Memoir (Ecco, 2013).
He played Officer Anthony Colicchio on the HBO series The Wire, his writing has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Harper’s, and he has been a guest commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. A native of New York, he now lives on a farm in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. Nonfiction Editor Dario DiBattista, also a former Marine, spoke with Busch for O-Dark-Thirty.
O-Dark-Thirty: I know this is painfully vague, but what does “identity” mean to you? How does it relate directly to writing and acting?
Benjamin Busch: There are both internal senses and external applications of identity. The latter is how we relate to other people, a tribal identity, and we are either born into it, adopt it, feel we’ve earned membership in it, or had it forced on us. We add our professions and religions, our nations and race, our sex and sexuality. I can always tell when an identity hasn’t been given much thought, lives on the surface, can’t defend itself. Writers and actors make decisions about who their characters are and how much their identity is influential. They have to find ways inside, past civilization’s dense fabric of labels, to what a character can’t deny under scrutiny.