A trip to Jamaica to renew and reset is a regular for Hollywood actor Leon. He can be found at any of his favourite spots on the island multiple times in any given year – and decades after his first visit, Jamaica is beginning to feel a lot like home.
Admittedly, the current pandemic was ruining the regular holiday plans and trips to Jamaica but once the coast was clear, Leon was back recently on local soil soaking in the food, culture and people which he has come to know and love.
“This is yaad,” he told the Jamaica Observer in his best Jamaican accent.
“I just fell in love with everything about this place from the first time I came here. It is part of me now, part of the rhythm of my life... the music, the natural beauty of the island. Right now I am gazing at the palm trees, mangoes that are ripe on the trees, the ocean. What more could I ask for? As someone who lives a very cosmopolitan lifestyle, living and working between New York and LA, this is what is missing and what Jamaica provides, so I have to have it in my life.”
Leon first became known to local audiences when he formed part of the ensemble cast for the 1993 hit film Cool Runnings, which was loosely based on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsleigh team's début in competition during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The film was directed by Jon Turteltaub and also starred Doug E Doug, Rawle D Lewis, Malik Yoba, and John Candy. A number of Jamaican actors were featured in Cool Runnings including the late Charles Hyatt, Cyrene Tomlinson, Fitz Weir, Bertina McCaulay, Pauline Stone Myrie, Clive Anderson and Michael London.
Long before his Jamaican visit Leon confessed that he was always a fan of reggae music. This greatly influences the style of music he performs with his band, Leon and the Peoples.
“I call the music we perform reggae soul. It really describes me and the types of music that I love. Just before the pandemic we released our album Love is a Beautiful Thing. We were hoping to take it on the road, tour and share the great music with the people out there but the coronavirus had other plans. I can't wait for this whole thing to be over and we can hit the road again and see my friends like Beres [Hammond]. I really can't wait and the truth is, outdoor venues — which are more popular for reggae shows — will get the green light before indoor venues, so I'm optimistic,” the New York-born artiste stated.
Despite the pandemic and the shutdown of the entertainment industry Leon noted that he has been working consistently on films and other projects.
“We [the band] just finished filming a virtual concert which will be streamed in June, as well as some live recordings of the music from the album which we will be releasing on our YouTube page. As it relates to film, I have been working non stop. I did a Christmas film for Hallmark which was their number one film for the season. I have also been part of the Showtime series City on the Hill, which airs on Sundays. I did an action film called A Day To Die with Bruce Willis as well a provocative story called A Love Tale. Plus there is a bunch of things that I'm working on for myself, including projects in development, so I can't talk about them just yet,” said Leon.
“That's why Jamaica is so important to me. It helps me rejuvenate after all that work,” he noted.