You're an actor and musician ... can you tell me what you were doing work-wise before you appeared in Like A Prayer?
I was acting in movies such as Michael Mann's Band of The Hand, Garry Marshall's Flamingo Kid, All The Right Moves, Oprah Winfrey's, Women of Brewster Place and Street Walkin w/ this years oscar nominee Melissa Leo.
How did you get the part? From reading a treatment of the video, you must have known it was going to be controversial before you started filming....
My agent got called, saying they wanted to see me for music video w/ Madonna. I first said no, cause I had fancied my self as a serious actor so why would I want to be dancing around w/ Madonna in a music video. But they called again and my agent said that you should at least meet Mary Lambert (the director of the video), she is also a film director. So I went to the meeting and from the moment I walked in everybody was buzzing and excited about me and they were all women so I was feeling very comfortable (:!! Mary told me the concept of the video and right then I realized that they wanted an actor (despite the countless models they had seen before me). So, I said, "Let me get this right, you want me to play a real life person and a statue that comes to life. You want Madonna to adore me, kiss my feet and than I kiss her?" Mary said, "Yes" and replied, "Oh, I can do that!"!!
I honestly didn't know how controversial it would be. It was her first album since her divorce from Sean and she gets a lot of pub. So, I figured maybe the cover of the music or entertainment section but it was the lead off story of the news period, everywhere!!!! Live At Five, CNN, BBC!!! The Madonna's huge Pepsi campaign premiering two days before the video premiere and cancellation of the campaign cause of the video helped.
Was it an enjoyable process or very hard work?
Well, working on any video, especially of that quality is hard word and long hours, plus we had to come back weeks later cause Warner Bros didn't think the statue looked enough like me. So they made a movable mask from a mold of my face which not only looked like me but was able to move and have real tears.
How well did you get to know Madonna?
Very, we got along quite quickly on the set and for some time after.
What surprised you about her?
How sweet, nice and generous she was. We hung out quite a bit and she was always lovely. Even sent me a gift to the set of my next project.
When was the last time you saw or spoke to Madonna?
Well, actually the last time I saw her was at a private Grammy party, she had the year before last at her suite in LA. Her behavior with me was quite strange, I would even venture to say maybe she doesn't even remember it but I have nothing but love for her. Her current manager Guy Oseary is a long time friend of mine.
Do you like the song?!
Sure, I thought it was a smash hit the first time they played it for me and the remixes are still rocking the clubs today.
How much were you paid for your appearance?
I can't recall but it wasn't much not like I got paid for movie or TV.
It was assumed you were playing Jesus, but some say you played a saint - which is correct?
Saint Thomas but the world thought Jesus and we know what a stir that caused!
Where were you when you first saw the completed LAP video?
That's a good question, I'm not sure if I watched it w/ Madonna or I saw the world premiere on TV w/ friends but I remember calling my mom & dad to asked them what they thought.
What did you think of it and why?
I thought it was Great! Like a mini-play, filmed theatre. Very positive message, especially if you were religious.
Did you appreciate during the making of it that it would be special? Why?
Most definitely, the whole concept, story line, talent level behind the camera and the curtain call at the end just like a play made it different. Cause of Madonna, I knew the world would see it.
How does it feel to have starred in one of the greatest videos of all time?
It feels great, especially as time goes on. There have been so many videos since then with so much new technology and yet it still stands above the rest. I believe it was voted the #2 video of the century behind Thriller.
What do you think now when you see it?
Proud that I was a major part of music video history.
Where is the strangest place you have been recognized? Are you still recognized for the video today?
Wow, not sure, probably at the Vatican in Rome, when I was there shooting Cliff Hanger. Always recognize for that video, luckily I'm also recognized just as much for my roles since. But I'll always hear someone saying, "Black Jesus".
Was working on LAP a help or hinderance to your career? In what way?
Helped for sure!!! With in a span of 10 days I was playing opposite the most talked about vixens in the country, Madonna & Robin Givens (she had just married Mike Tyson). Oprah Winfrey's Women of Brewster Place mini-series had premiere and I played Robin Givens boyfriend. They were calling me Leon the lady tamer(;!! All around the word they wanted to know who Leon was, so obviously the exposure helped.
Do you have any regrets about appearing in it?
No, none at all.