Thanks so much for being here. Why don’t you introduce yourself and a little bit about yourself?
“I’m James Leon, I moved [to LA] from Florida back in March, so I’ve been here for about three months now. Right now, I’m campaigning to be Hollywood’s first black superman. I am going full head of steam with that.”
I can imagine that journey has been wild. I know we talked about how you weren’t always going to be an actor right?
“Yeah! I wasn’t always going to be an actor. I had plans of going to medical school when I graduated from my undergrad last year. and you know during that time COVID happened um I spent the entire quarantine with, I like to say my caucasian family, they took good care of me. And then you know it was like one of those eureka moments where it showed me it’s time to chase after my goals. So, I decided to pack up my jeep and make that drive to California.”
When did that decision come about when you decided you wanted a campaign to be the first black superman?
“So one of my friends tagged me in a photo. I was at the gym. I was working out, you know so I didn’t think much of it, but I looked at it. You know most of the time on Deadline it comes out that the show was announced but you know they already know who they want is their cast they have a general idea of who they want.
So when I saw the words “looking for an African-American director”, as well as the actor to play the lead role, I was like damn! It just gave me a lot of motivation and aside from just the role itself, I think that one of the things I learned as a young man like myself, like psychologically, is that when you have a goal and a purpose towards something, it makes waking up easier. It makes doing the things that you need to do to get there much easier. And as you know this business is tough, it’s not an easy one, but with this motivation in the foreground, it sets and establishes a framework for me to work off of because it’s teaching me not only the business aspect but also the creative side of it. It’s been very impactful to my life personally as well.”
That’s super important that you bring up the business side too because I feel like a lot of people that want to do something in the creative industry, whether it’s acting or whatnot, we often forget that there’s a whole business side to it too!
“I feel like that’s such an important aspect. I mean I like to say like there’s probably another Denzel or another great actor out there in this world, but you have to understand it’s like any other business where it’s about relationships and networking and taking risks. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the
Steven Spielberg told how he went into the Warner Brothers park parking lot and he only had a three-day pass. After his passes were up, he knew that these were the people he needed to be around to get to where he wanted to go. So, the next day he dressed up in a business suit and they just thought he worked there so they let him in and he was able to get his break.
So it takes a lot of risks. It takes a lot of getting uncomfortable.”
Do you have any daily practices that you follow that help you manifest the career that you want?
“I’ve been watching a lot of Jordan Peterson’s videos lately. He’s a psychologist. One of the things I do know is I wake up at 7:00 am every day and it doesn’t matter if I’m off the next day, it doesn’t matter, I wake up and I clean my room. Cleaning my room is like a mental startup for me because it’s a reflection of how my day is going to go. So, I clean my room, I make my bed, I eat breakfast, I do those tasks and they sort of set me up psychologically for a productive day.
Another thing that I do is I constantly remind myself that this is fun to be able to be out here oh and I’m perfectly fine. I have a house, I have a car and I’m able to pick up the phone and call some of these people and pitch myself and talk about their great projects and sort of intertwining myself in that business aspect that is fun. All of this is fun. It’s not a hardship you know. People talk about their traumatic experiences “it was so hard”, “I couldn’t do it”, “It’s like a lottery ticket”, no this is all fun everything that I’m doing every project every phone call is fun!
For me to truly be able to manifest what I want, I have to have fun with it. I have to believe in myself. But to trust your talent to trust who you are, your thoughts, your judgment, it takes a lot of mental work to be able to get to that level to know that ‘i’m worthy enough to pick up the phone and call JJ Abrams’ and have a discussion with them because I’m worth it.”
Yeah I mean it all boils back down to um not being afraid of failure and just putting yourself out there because the power is in your hands you can choose to sit down every day and just wait for somebody to come up to you and offer you a role or you know you can manifest every day.
“Yeah, that’s really what a lot of actors with agents and managers think. They think that they’ll let them do the work but no. It’s one thing to get a breakdown and submit for it but then it’s another thing to pick up a phone and call someone. I realized that picking up the phone and calling these people puts you ahead by a mile and you have to not only rely on your managers and agents but also have to rely on yourself too. You got to do the research. You have to find out who the important players in these projects give them a call so that when it comes down to it the top two choices and you’re that top choice you’re already green littered by the production because you called and established a relationship already.”
Have you ever picked up the phone after you submit an audition?
So there’s a project right now, I can’t talk about it, but there’s a gentleman that I called because I was like I know my manager submitted me for this, but I’m going to call him. So, I called him and he was like “oh you know I’m not the casting director”. And I’m like “yeah I just wanted to call and introduce myself” and we had a heart-to-heart conversation for 10 minutes and this is a producer now so like if you know producers are like busy so the fact that I got 10 minutes I was like wow brother like that’s awesome.
We talked, I got his email then I sent my materials off to him. I am building a network with important people that I can tell my manager and agent like ‘hey I’ve already established a relationship with this person you know. It plays an important part in the whole business side. Humanize the process. It’s much more impactful when you humanize things. People that are eager for something or passionate, forget that we’re humans at the core of it. And if you humanize a process you make it so that people like you. You’re honest, you know. When I started to realize like you know I’m gonna humanize this process it just started to click to me that this is just like any other business. Humanize it, be yourself, be authentic, be genuine. Don’t have ulterior motives, be genuine that’s it.
What would you say has been the most challenging thing that you’ve come across in this whole journey to your career?
For me, it’s just getting started. I don’t know everything you know, I don’t, but the most challenging thing is when you know as a man if I get in front of these people like if they see who I am if they know my story they’re gonna love me. They’re gonna. And it’s just the fact that you can’t because it’s just that you can’t just end up in a room with Steven Spielberg, not happening.
Especially someone who’s just starting because when you just start you haven’t built your network as deeply you know embedded as it can so just start you’re still just making those little you know minor connections um but that’s been the most challenging thing but it’s also been the most fun is the fun part because it’s like okay now I know who to call I call their assistants you know their assistants love me and that just gives me you know one step ahead you know and it’s in it it’s like building my network so that’s been the opposite end of that is I can’t be in the same room as JJ abrams but you know I can build a relationship with his assistants.
That’s fun because then you figure out that they’re normal people and they like you and they want to talk to you and they want to talk about their projects and it’s like like I said you humanize it and it’s Beautiful yeah you built the puzzle of like okay JJ abrams is here now how many people do I have to contact to get to there yeah you just build walk your way up the ladder until you get there yeah yeah and you kind of just and you do it and you just be authentic and be genuine and just be yourself and um you sort of just let the universe manifest what you’re thinking what your thoughts are and um you know that that’s really what I’ve been doing and it’s been working.
I’ve heard people say you should act like the person you want to be so would you say maybe do you try and act like Superman sometimes to manifest that
I won’t lie like when I’m in the gym sometimes I’m like you know what I’m Superman. As corny as it sounds you know I act like I’m Superman. I think what’s beautiful and what’s so unique to Superman too is he’s not just something that you couldn’t be, it’s like what every man starts to be and if you could start to be Superman you’re gonna be at your personal best. Like your personal best, not just Superman, but your personal best. Even with the littlest things, if I see trash on the floor I’m not going to ignore it you know I’m like I’m going to pick it up. Like I’m going to be the best man, I’m going to be the best person. So if I see something that’s bothering me, or if I see something that’s not right, I’m going to help, you know.
What would you say so far has been either the most exciting, most rewarding?
This happened today! I just get so excited when this happens. When I pick up the phone I call the office and you know it’s always the assistants that answer. But when I’m able to have a conversation with them and we’re engaged in a conversation and we make a connection and I get an email and I get a name and they get my name…Once that happens it’s the best thing. Because it’s like wow I just called up this office that obviously is very prestigious and they fully accepted me. The fun part about it is that I can strip away this need to be someone else and just say here’s my work. I hope you enjoy it, I hope we can work together.
I feel like you’re the type of actor who you’re gonna make it because you know what you’re doing, or maybe none of us know, but we’re just doing what we think is best. But you’re making steps and you’re doing everything you can to make it happen for you so it’s going to happen there’s no reason it isn’t you know?
I can’t wait, yeah! I was going to say Bonnie Galipsi, this book I’m reading, she says you know “it’s not what you do it’s the number of things that you do that gets you to where you want to go”. So, it’s not going to be one thing, it’s going to be the collection of things you do. Another thing that I’ve learned is you can never compare yourself to where someone else is because there’s no one like you. No one has your temperament, no one has your family, no one has your struggles and it’s the flip side you don’t know their struggles and their temperaments and their family. And that’s why when you hone in and lean into who you are what you represent you’ll find that you might have just taken taking a little bit longer than someone else but it was worth it and it was because it is taught you something so it’s always important to know that your journey knows that in Hollywood everybody has a different story.
Is there any advice you would give to an actor that’s just starting but it doesn’t even have to be maybe somebody who’s just finding themselves in their career what advice would you give to that person okay
I’m starting as well, but my mindset is what’s so important. My mental sanity in this business. And what I’ll say is understand that you’re gonna fail. You’re gonna get so many no’s, and I know this is so cliche, but people have to understand you’re going to fail you’re going to do something wrong you’re going to make a bad pitch you’re going to make a wrong email you’re gonna make these mistakes but understand that the biggest question of life is how do we get to the to our best. The only way we do that is by failing. Then we learn and we have these amazing stories to tell at the end of the day.
You gotta wake up every day and set goals. You have to think unrealistically, and when you think unrealistically, tell these unrealistic ideas out loud to yourself and believe them, feel them, tell them to people that will also believe in it, because you will encounter some people that are narcissistic and are sort of very realistic in their thinking that they will make whatever you’re thinking to seem much lower than what it is and it diminishes its value in your heart. Keep doing the work. Keep working on being articulate. Knowing how to write and read and get out a legitimate message. Work on these skills and you find yourself in a really good position at whatever you do.
Do it with no regrets because you don’t want to fall later in life and wish you did.
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