A charismatic African-American actor of TV and film, Leon was billed as Leon Robinson when he made his professional debut on the "CBS Afternoon Playhouse" production "Journey to Survival" in 1981. He became a part of popular music history when he was cast as the martyred Southern black saint in Madonna's controversial 1989 music video "Like a Prayer." Leon first made an impression on movie audiences as the exuberant captain of the Jamaican bobsled team in "Cool Runnings" (1993).
Born in the Bronx, but raised in the middle class suburb of Mount Vernon, this only son of a transit authority executive and his teacher wife migrated to Los Angeles to play basketball for Loyola Marymount before moving into acting. Early roles included a football teammate of Tom Cruise in "All the Right Moves" (1983) and Fortune, the Notre Dame-bound basketball playing co-worker of Matt Dillon, in "The Flamingo Kid" (1984). It was only after his exposure in the Madonna video that Leon's roles became more substantial. He was a member of a singing group trying to stay off drugs while his brother becomes addicted in Robert Townsend's "The Five Heartbeats" (1991). In 1993, he co-starred as John Lithgow's British henchman out to get Sylvester Stallone in Renny Harlin's "Cliffhanger" and followed with a turn as a disillusioned ex-jock in "Above the Rim" (1994). Leon was also memorable as Lela Rochon's married lover in "Waiting to Exhale" (1996) and co-produced as well as co-starred in the romantic drama "The Price of Kissing" (1997).
Before striking it on the big screen, Leon amassed numerous small screen credits, notably as a 1989 episode of the NBC series "Midnight Caller" in which he played an athlete who falls victim to crack cocaine. He also co-starred in the 1989 ABC miniseries "The Women of Brewster Place," as the ghetto boyfriend of a suburbanite Robin Givens.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made TV acting debut, "Journey to Survival", a "CBS Afternoon Playhouse" production
Feature acting debut, "All the Right Moves"
Made episodic TV debut in "Hard Copy" (CBS)
Changed name from Leon Robinson to Leon
Appeared as the Saint in Madonna's video "Like a Prayer"
Co-starred in the ABC miniseries "The Women of Brewster Place"
First film in a leading role, "Cool Runnings"
Served as associate producer on the feature "Bad Attitude"; also starred
Played roguish womanizer in "Waiting to Exhale"
Co-produced and starred in "The Price of Kissing"
Featured in the thriller "Bats"
Portrayed pioneering rock singer Little Richard in an NBC biopic "Little Richard"