James Lesure is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Mike Cannon, the suave and competitive head of surveillance, on the TV drama “Las Vegas,” opposite legendary actor James Caan.
He recently completed taping on the NBC series Lipstick Jungle in NYC. While he is uncertain if there will be a season three, the second season taping is complete and will air throughout the remainder of the year. Lesure has appeared in a recurring role as CEO Griffin Bell. He went from being a team member (Mike Cannon on Las Vegas) for five years to a CEO on Lipstick Jungle.
Named one of the next generations leading men by GQ Magazine and one of the hottest bachelors on television, Lesure made his series debut on “For Your Love” as attorney Mel Ellis, co-starring actress Holly Robinson-Peete.
Lesure has also appeared in recurring roles on “Alias and “The Division.” His other television credits include guest-starring role on “Lost,” “NYPD Blue,” “Seinfeld,” “Martin” and a notable turn as result military officer on the acclaimed series, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Lesure’s expanding film career includes various independent film productions and the feature films The Ring 2 and Crimson Tide, string Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman.
Lesure currently resides in Los Angeles and his birthday is September 21.
Sentinel: Tell me how you originally got started in acting or as I like to say, when did you first catch the acting bug?
JL: I grew up in Gardena and Carson so I have to give my shouts out to Gardena as well because I got love for my Gardenians. What it was, I graduated from high school and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to get away for a little bit so I went to the Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs for a bit, just because that was a place and I didn’t feel like my folks could afford to send me to college at the time and that school paid you to study so I was like ok, I will give it a shot. So I went there for a year and I didn’t like it so I figured I wanted to get out of that and do something with my life that I enjoyed and I sat and thought about it for a while and it turned out I wanted to entertain folks and act. So I left that and started pursuing it.
Sentinel: Did your family ever push you in this direction or was it just you?
JL: I did a play in Junior High with my sister actually. It was just for school. I was taking drama just as an elective so it wasn’t a big drive or big desire for me to be an actor or anything but I did enjoy it. But I wasn’t involved in any plays in high school.
Sentinel: You are originally from Gardena and Carson so tell me a little bit about growing up in Los Angeles and how it was back in the day?
JL: It was great. I look back on my child hood years finally, especially in Gardena. I was in my early years and we had like this blessed neighborhood I feel like. We had a lot of African American neighbors there. We also had Mexican Americans and Japanese were there and we had a couple of European Americans that were living on this street really. So it was sort like a diverse community and I just remember growing up at a time just where it felt like a neighborhood. We all felt like we knew each others parents and it was sort of close knit so it was sort of positive.
Sentinel: Do you think your environment shaped you for later on in life?
JL: I think it did. I think it helped me to be able to relate to different cultures and I like to be able to do that.
Sentinel: Tell me a little bit about your character in Lipstick Jungle?
JL: Well I play the new boss of this multi-million dollar company. A company like, lets say Time Warner. So I come in there and he is basically about business. Some may look at him and think he is cold-blooded but really he is just about taking care of business first. So that is sort of his mentality.
Sentinel: The boss can’t be nice (laughs), somebody has to lay it down.
JL: And he is willing to lay it down (laughs). He is not necessarily intimidating about himself, he just does it really sort of matter of fact and I like playing that.
Sentinel: How would you compare this role to some of the other characters you have played in the past?
JL: I feel like I got into and I started to play this guy, I feel like he was a little bit more historic and a little bit more contained, like a quiet strength about him. Where as other characters have been a little more fluid, open and colorful. This one is a little more serious minded I felt like.
Sentinel: What are some of the difficulties that you face as an African American male actor in today’s market and what advice would you give to up can coming actors and actress’?
JL: I say if you really want to do it. For me, it was a strong desire. It wasn’t about anybody else doing it so I said ya, I can do that too. It was just sort of a like a voice within that says, I really want to do this. So I just pursued it. So if somebody really has that muse or inspiration, I say follow it because I’d like for all of us to achieve our goals and be able to live out our dreams as long as their positive in that respect. There are challenges as an actor but I feel it doesn’t matter if I’m brown skin or white skin. It’s just a pretty challenging profession.
Sentinel: What are your feelings on the campaign (president-elect Barack Obama) and the experience?
JL: I think it’s just such a great look for America and the world. I was sort of heart broken in the last election when we re-elected Bush. Some of my faith in America was really sort of questioned and I was sort of like wow, anything is possible. That’s why I didn’t think anything was guaranteed this come election. He (president-elect Barack Obama) sort of strikes me as a humanitarian. He’s African and European American and I think just on that alone. You think about Africa and Europe it sort of covers a lot of the globe in itself and this one man can sort of accomplished all of that. And it was just important for me to get a humanitarian in there. That’s what I feel like and he’s bright.
Sentinel: Any plans for the big screen?
JL: I’d like to. I’m still working at this acting thing and hopefully I’m becoming better and better because that’s what I like to do, as well become more successful. So I’m open to all different types of medium. I’ve been thinking about doing more theatre stuff as well and television has been great to me. But also the film world is something I don’t feel like I have enough experience in and I’d like to because I really enjoy some good movies.
Sentinel: You are heavily involved with charity specifically with the Sickle Cell disease Foundation, how did that come about and why sickle cell specifically?
JL: That’s still near and dear to my heart because I have a great friend in my life, Big Dave we call him. He battles with sickle cell and even just recently I was in Miami two weeks ago and unfortunately he had sort of an episode and it put him in the hospital for like a week and a half. I went to visit him and its so hard to see somebody have to go through this and it seems like we don’t have any sort of answers to battle or eradicate it. I would love to do what I can to help eliminate this affliction because its something that gets me down and frustrates me and I don’t have to live with this but this guy has to struggle with it.
Sentinel: What are some of the other things you have on the horizon?
JL: I am open to producing. I do like good entertainment and great entertainment so it makes me feel good and I want to be part of that for as long as I can. I’ve also started a t-shirt company called What’s Your Blend T-shirts, it sort of harps back on the whole diversity thing.
For more information visit www.jameslesure.com