Actor Leon, a songwriter and leader of his of the reggae-soul band, Leon & the Peoples, recently added his voice to the chorus of entertainment industry supporters of President Obama. The star of The Five Heartbeats, The Temptations and Cool Runnings, appears in two new films, Ex-Free and Soul Ties. He was voted one of the “30 Sexiest Actors of All Time" by AOL Black Voices.
AFRO: When I met you last summer, we talked about your band, Leon & the Peoples. You were very excited talking about your music.
Leon: Of course, I love music! I listen to a lot of music. My dad was very big into Nat King Cole and Motown. I would listen to and learn those songs when I was young.
AFRO: What is your nationality? Are you West Indian?
Leon: I am African American. When I was 12 years old, my good friend Trevor, his brother became a Rasta. They took me in and taught me all about Rasta culture and vegetarian life. I kind of took to it and loved the music…My grandfather on my mother’s side was half-Jamaican but I never knew it. He died when I was 3.
AFRO: The impact of reggae is strong with your music?
Leon: Oh yeah. But if you listen, our music is as much soul as it is reggae.
AFRO: So you are a vegetarian too?
Leon: No, I eat vegetarian a lot, but I’m not a vegetarian.
AFRO: You’re a father. You have a daughter?
Leon: Yes, a beautiful daughter, Noelle. She’s 12…I took her last year to the BET Awards with me. We performed [as] the Five Heartbeats and she loved that. She walked the red carpet with me. She was my date.
AFRO: Is there a lady in your life now?
Leon: Not now. I lived with a woman for about five years. For the last [few] years or so, I’ve just been concentrating on my career…Now, my girlfriend is my career.
AFRO: Are you happy with the progress you’ve made in your career? You’ve taken a break from acting to work with your band.
Leon: Yes! I have a lot of respect for people who are professionals at what they do. A lot of my friends are very prominent singers, musicians. They spend their entire lives doing music. I would never want to cheapen what they do and think I could just jump into it, be good and be respected, without putting in the work.
AFRO: People respect you for the roles you’ve played.
Leon: I think that if you really look at my work, that I have played all types of roles. I was in Cliffhanger, an action film, $300 million at the box office. My biggest movie as a lead was Cool Runnings, $210 million at the box office, a family comedy. Of course, I’ve had roles where I am a bad boy.
AFRO: I saw your work in Waiting to Exhale the other day. It was really interesting to watch you in that role!
Leon: I like to play a wide variety of roles…You have to take the opportunity to try and do different things. I also do that on stage. That’s one of the beauties of acting. In the theater, I am allowed to play different types of roles.
AFRO: What are your thoughts on the 2012 presidential campaign?
Leon: I am happy with President Obama. You have to realize the country was in anatrocious state before he took office. Anyone who wants to blame the economy on him is not being realistic. That’s the reason he got in office, because things were so bad. The history of the presidency is that no president can accomplish anything in one term. The first term is basically implementing your policies and…revers[ing] the situation we were in. I don’t think you should ever vote for a president unless you plan on voting for him for two terms because he can’t do anything in one term. I think if you voted for Obama and you believed in him the first time around, you have to let him have a second term to even make a difference. What I like most about our president, is that he has been a human being…President Obama has shown that he can change his policies and can change his thinking based upon what’s he seen and experienced as president, so I respect that.
AFRO: Very nice to talk to you.
Leon: You too. Thanks!