Alexa

Q&A: Veteran character actor Leon breaks out with music of his own

Q&A: Veteran character actor Leon breaks out with music of his own

Leon's acting career has always brought him back to his first love _ music.
Although he's starred in films as varied as "Cool Runnings" and "Waiting to Exhale," the one-named actor probably has gained his biggest kudos for playing musicians. He played J.T. Matthews in Robert Townsend's "The Five Heartbeats," the volatile frontman David Ruffin in the TV miniseries "The Temptations," and Little Richard in another TV biopic.
Though he's still acting _ he stars in the film "Capers," due out next year _ his music is finally taking center stage. His group, Leon and The Peoples, who perform a mix of reggae and soul, recently released their debut disc "The Road Less Traveled."
AP: When did you first start tackling roles involving music?
Leon: To be perfectly honest with you, it's something that I just fell into. My first foray into that was "The Five Heartbeats." Robert Townsend said he wanted to make this movie and wanted it to be real special because our sisters don't really have matinee idols. I thought, "Wow! If you see me that way, then great."
AP: People still recognize you from "The Temptations." How did that role come your way?
Leon: During that time I met Otis Williams, one of the original members of The Temptations. He told me he was writing a book that they wanted to make into a movie and he wanted me to play him. So, years later, they called me in and asked me what role I saw myself playing and I thought I would really kill the David Ruffin part. And they all sort of sighed and said: "We were hoping you'd say that." Otis himself came by the set to watch one of the scenes and he saw one take and walked out of the room and never came back. He said it was too real for him.
AP: Did those roles help push you into a music career?
Leon: Singing was always my first love. My dad was always singing around the house. Even when I was in college I had written songs and it was always something that I loved in my life. I was always into music, especially into reggae. I became this guy that would always be at these reggae shows and I was always singing backstage. Finally people started saying: "When are you going to do a record?" It just became sort of a natural progression.
AP: When did reggae music first have an impact on you?
Leon: My love for Jamaica happened when I was nine years old. That was when I heard Bob Marley's "Natty Dread" playing out of a window in my neighborhood. I just sat there and was mesmerized and from that moment on reggae became the backbeat of my life. I thought: "As soon as I make any kind of money, my first trip is to Jamaica." It got to the point where I spent almost all my time there when I wasn't doing a movie. It just became like my backyard.
AP: When did you first decide to form your own band?
Leon: I had become part of a downtown New York reggae band called The Young Lions. We performed and started doing well but I wanted to do original music.
AP: Why did it take close to five years to finally release a record?
Leon: For me it was important to take the time to create our own sound. A lot of people just want you to sing, especially if you're someone well known. People already thought they knew what kind of music I wanted to sing, based on my image and things like that. With singers I love I can just hear a bit of a song and I know who it is. I wanted it to be like that with us. As soon as I felt we had our own sound, we made the record.
AP: Where would you like this record, and your music career to go?
Leon: This business is all about timing and luck. You really can't get caught up in that stuff. You have to just go with it. My dad was always a great influence on me. If things weren't working out he just said: 'Do your thing. The cream always rises to the top.' I've always believed that. Basically, at the end of the day, I don't perform for critics. I perform for people. That's who makes us successful.
AP: Finally, what's with the one-named monniker?
Leon: On one of my movies early in my career, for some strange reason both (movie) trade publications misspelled my perfectly normal last name (Robinson) in a review. One spelled it Robbins and the other Robertson. So I said to my agent at the time, "You know what, next film I'll go by just one name and I'll bet you they find my last name and spell it right!" Well, I did it and I just kept working and never changed it back.
___
On the Net:
http://www.thepeoples.biz
http://www.justLEON.com


Updated : 2021-04-13 10:08 GMT+08:00