*Veteran actor/producer/writer Leon Isaac Kennedy, known for movies like ‘Penitentiary’ (1979), ‘Body and Soul’ (1981), and ‘Lone Wolf McQuade’ (1983) appeared this week on ActorsE Chat with host Ron Brewington.
This storied interview tells how at age 15 in his hometown of Cleveland (OH), Kennedy abandoned thoughts of becoming a medical doctor after performing in a high school play – he was hooked on becoming an actor. Influenced by actor Errol Flynn, he made a plan: First to be a disc jockey, a big time on-the-air personality, get his own TV show, then get into movies.
In Cleveland at age 16 he became one of the youngest disc jockeys in a Top-10 radio market. He eventually moved to a larger market in Detroit (MI) during the Motown ‘heyday.’ He then went on to Washington (D.C.), and Houston (TX). He has fond memories of working with great radio personalities like Mike Payne, ‘Hot Dog,’ Wash Allen and so many others. He says Media Mogul Cathy Hughes once told him, ‘You took black radio up to a whole other level of sophistication.’ He tells young people, ‘If you want to make it in life you have to have a plan; you have to have a road map.’
While in Detroit, Kennedy became known as ‘Leon the Lover’ with his ‘reminisce with me’ radio program. He’s got some great stories of all the Motown artists he knew – Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and so many others. He recalls going horseback riding with David Ruffin.
He tells a heartfelt story about how he and former wife, the beautiful Jayne Kennedy (former beauty queen and sportscaster) were breaking new ground at the time in their respective fields early on in their marriage, and insists they remain the best of friends to this day.
Kennedy had his first television show, ‘Teen-A-Rama,’ when he was just 19. Another TV show, ‘Outta Sight,’ (which came before Soul Train) was syndicated in 22 cities. He had made a big name for himself by the time he arrived in Hollywood, but it was like starting all over again. Opportunities began to open up for him though, thanks to director Jamaa Fanaka. As a Hollywood actor, he tells some courageous stories of his bold persistence, and how he would not take ‘no’ for an answer. Listen to the advice he offers to those in the industry today and life in general. He also talks about the ‘Penitentiary’ sequels, and meeting and working with legendary world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.
Now an evangelist, Kennedy discusses how he started the Kennedy Healing Love Ministries. A new movie ‘Heavenly Stars’ – the first film he’s done in 15 years – is scheduled for release in 2015. He’s known as the ‘Godfather’ of minority independent filmmakers being one of the first minority filmmakers to travel to the Cannes and MIFED film festivals. He’s planning to write a book about his many experiences.
Kennedy is also a partner in a food company with Smokey Robinson Foods. He says, ‘Smokey is my brother and best friend.’
Please click player below to watch the interview:
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