[By Leslie J. Griffin]
Tall, fine and talented is the perfect prescription for the ladies—and the perfect description of actor Leon Robinson. But, don’t get it twisted. He’s unapologetically more than handsome. The veteran thespian is no stranger to television, stage performance and the silver screen. Mesmerizing audiences across the nation for more than two decades, he returns to the stage in the critically acclaimed production Things Your Man Won’t Do.
Written by nationally-famed playwright JeCaryous Johnson and staring Wendy Racquel Robinson, Tichina Arnold, Brian White and Tony Grant, Robinson unfolds as Blake Matthison, an out-of-towner who agrees to become a makeshift marriage counselor for Rachel Braxton (Wendy Racquel) whose strict religious morals backfires when she agrees to cohabit with her non-committal boyfriend Demetrius McAllister (Brian White) on the conditions of marriage and abstinence. Former lovers, Rachel and Blake realize they have unfinished business and things become heated.
Things Your Man Won’t Do is a must-see performance invoking continuous laughter and soul-stirring vocals with all the trappings for sudden twists and turns. You thought you knew, but you have no idea. Leon talked exclusively with Detroit CEO Magazine about his career and his next projects.
A huge congratulations is in order for everything you’ve been able to accomplish in your career.
Thank you so much I appreciate that.
Hollywood is no easy feat. When you step back from it all and look at the roster of movies and other art forms you’ve contributed to, what do you say?
Wow I just feel blessed that I’ve been able to do very memorable work. That’s what’s really most important. I try to do things that create a legacy where people will remember you beyond your time.
Speaking of being remembered, my favorite role of you was in The Temptations when you said, “yall ain’t nothin’ without Ruffin.”
(Laughing) Yeah people do love the Temptations.
Talk about your role in Things Your Man Won’t Do.
I’m very excited about the play and about coming to Detroit. I am not excited about coming into the cold weather (laughing). I feel very happy with the cast and it’s going to be lots of fun. I play Blake. I am basically the one that steals Rachel’s heart. I come from St. Louis to protest the Ferguson acquittal and I run into an old friend who happens to be madly in love with the woman that I let go. So there are lots of twists and turns.
This is definitely a role that fits you. Was there anything that specifically attracted you to it besides the beautiful actresses you’re sharing the stage with?
As a trained actor, when I get to be on stage of a play it’s like going home for me and I love that. And I love the fact that I’m on the stage doing a play that has a lot of drama, a lot of comedy and a lot of varying elements that keeps the audience very much engaged. When I’m on the stage, I like to ensure that it’s funny, engaging and all of those things.
Over the years, what have you learned about yourself through the various roles you’ve played?
Well lots of times I think what you learn about yourself is going beyond your reservations. The ability to transform myself…especially with becoming a character that’s very far from who I really am is always fun. The great thing I find about acting is that when you have a chance to get into the character, sometimes the way that person thinks is a lot different from you so you have to see not only what part of that character you can identify with but, understand that character even though it may be far from who you really are.
Is there a role or actor that you haven’t shared the screen with that’s still on your bucket list?
Wow there are so many roles that I have not played that I would like to play. And there are so many people that I’d like to perform with both on the acting front as well as directing. I look at some of the top black Directors out there today and I have worked with so few of them. I have so much work to do and so many things that I would like to do artistically. As far as role that I’d like to play there are so many options.
On the very immediate front, I have a movie that I am going to do by the name of Hosanna. And we are actually trying to raise additional funds for it right now. The backdrop is about our failed immigration system here in America and how there are 11 million immigrants in this country trying to live the American dream. There is a Director from Ghana who is working on the project. Check our website out at http://www.justleon.com. I can say that it’s very rare that something comes across your desk and someone approaches you with a project that you really want to do it because it goes beyond just acting. It actually helps people.
You talked about doing films that matter. What are some of your thoughts on Film Director Ms. Ava DuVernay?
I think she is a fine Director. She is going to go on and do great things in which she already has.
What do you want Detroiters to take away from this play?
First and foremost I’d like for them to walk away with a good experience. I want them to laugh and get involved with the play. It’s very entertaining.
Are plays in the black community highly supported and still relevant?
They are extremely relevant. The unfortunate part is that it’s always the economics of things. Acting will impact blacks before it impacts anyone else. That’s one of the reasons why it’s great that this cast is all working actors. Everyone is going to be on board and people get to see their favorite box office actors. We are giving you first rate theatre.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time? (laughing) I like to play a lot of tennis. In my home in New York, you will see me sitting courtside at the New York Nick games. I don’t have a lot of spare time, because when I’m not pursuing my craft of acting, I am a singer. I have an album coming out and we’re getting ready to tour so there’s a lot of travel involved.
What people don’t realize is that what we do is really a lot of hard work. The only thing really glamorous about it is after the screening or when the show is going on. But everything before and after is just hard work, long hours and lots of travel. And people see this great light and they’re like wow you’re an actor. That must be fun. That must be great and it’s like you just don’t know. All you see is the finished product. It’s a lot of hard work. Then once you put the work out there, you’re basically at the opinions of the people watching you. Whether they like it or not and no matter how much work you put into. And Oh God people can be horribly cruel especially with social media. The things people say when they hide behind a tiny little phone is ridiculous. But I am having fun and I enjoy the work that I do.
Catch the excitement at the Detroit Opera House on Friday, February 27 through Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. Secure tickets at http://www.ticketmaster.com and stay connected with Leon at http://www.justleon.com and on Twiter @JustLeon.