You've seen Leon in various movies from The Five Heartbeats to The LIttle Richard Story but his latest foray ventured into the world in Internet television via Robert Townsend's new web series, Diary of a Single Mom. He also appeared recently on The Real Housewives of Atlanta where he visited his ex, Cynthia Bailey, and their daughter. And when he's not busy with acting, it's all about his reggae band, Leon and the Peoples. Here, the renaissance man chats with VIBE about new roles, his music career and making co-parenting work.
What is Diary of a Single Mom about?
Diary of a Single Mom is on PIC TV, which is the public internet channel, which is co-chaired by Obama, and it’s a web series that has a great cast—Monica Calhoun, Valery Ortiz, myself, Richard Roundtree and Billy Dee Williams. It’s real black Hollywood and Robert Townsend created it. It’s a real emotional story about these three women who live in this tenement just trying to get through with their kids and living in a world that’s hard to live in and trying to raise their kids right and all the struggles that go along with that. With the show being on PIC TV, it’s really interesting because what happens is that single moms watch the show through the Internet and they can connect with other single moms throughout the country or anywhere on issues they have, like childcare or how to balance their budget, or getting their GED and all kinds of things. One of the characters on the show has breast cancer and you can click on links on the site and find more information for breast cancer.
Talk about your character.
My character on the show is Mike, and I play the father of the beautiful daughter that I have with Valery Ortiz’s character, Lupe. It’s strange because I wanted to be part of the traditional family situation. I tried everything that I could but I couldn’t control her, she wasn’t doing the right thing and she had to leave him but I still care for my daughter and I still care for her so it kind of represents the facet that we don’t see in these stories—the baby daddy. We see the baby mama but sometimes every baby daddy doesn’t want to be a baby daddy, he wants to be a husband in the house but it’s not his choice. But the only time we usually hear about babydaddies is if they’re doing something wrong.
Aside from acting, you’re also quite active with your band, Leon and the Peoples. What steered you toward reggae?
My band is a mixture of reggae and soul music but my love for reggae started as a youth. The first time I heard Robert Nesta Marley coming out my friend’s window I just—it was the Mighty Dread album and I heard it and said, “Wow, what is this?” And from that moment on, I sought out every reggae singer I could. I just loved reggae. It was the music that actually made me want to sing.
Talk about your album out.
Our record came out a few years ago—The Road Less Traveled—and it got nominated for an international reggae and world music award for International Reggae Artist of the Year, so we were happy with our first effort and we headline the AIDS Walk concert in Central Park and have played all over.
You guys do all of this independently, right?
Yeah. We record out of Pulse Music, that’s our label. Next year, we’re gonna be putting out singles because in this environment it makes sense. The kids don’t sit around and listen to albums like they used to so if you come out with a great album with a good concept you’ll never get to hear it. It’s better to put out a single and promote that.
Your ex, Cynthia Bailey just wrapped Real Housewives of Atlanta. When you initially found out she was going to be on the show, were you apprehensive and how did you deal?
I wasn’t happy at first but at the end of the day, when we sat down and discussed it it’s not really about me it’s about Cynthia and that’s for her and anything that helps her move into another career or enhance her modeling or something like that. So, it’s something I have to do because we’re family.