Cool Runnings actor Leon Robinson enjoys bobsledding, Jamaican food and music | Entertainment
With any movie star, there’s the actor, and then there’s the character. Leon Robinson, or “Just Leon” as he humbly preferred to be credited over the years, has always had an interest in cultivating the latter. Most Jamaicans had discovered his chiseled face in the 1993 cult classic Cool races film that tells the story of the island’s first bobsled (or bobsledding) team that defied the naysayers with their participation in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Canada.
The film gave a glimpse into the passion of the daring sportsmen and earned them a special place in the hearts of fellow Jamaicans. Indeed, many of them would end up falling in love with the charming character of Derice Bannock. In an interview with The Sunday GleanerLeon says he knew the sport very well and enjoyed it.
It’s been almost three decades since the Walt Disney film was released and 34 years since the four-man team made their Olympic debut, delighting the world with their inspiring story, but Leon’s appreciation for it hasn’t than deepen.
“While I wouldn’t describe myself as a bobsled fan, I can definitely say I enjoyed it for what it is. I don’t know how the movie impacted my career because I can say I was fine before that. I’m happy to have played many roles that stayed in people’s hearts and created memorable characters, Derice being one of them,” Leon said.
And he continues to wave the Jamaican flag as if it were his homeland, knowing that for the first time in 24 years, a four-man team had qualified to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. “It’s a huge appreciation because I’ve been in sledding, and I know what it takes and how it beats your body,” he said.
The actor was one of the VIP guests at a private party hosted by the Jamaica Tourist Board in New York last Friday to see the Jamaican national team compete in the four-man bobsled races. Unfortunately, the two-man bobsled team finished 30th out of 30, but it’s been said that the team is working hard and aiming for more than movie references – to make their mark in real life. For this reason, and more, Leon believes that the current athletes who represent the country deserve all the support and should know that what they are doing is not in vain.
“I have nothing but tremendous respect for athletes. What I would share with the Jamaicans there is that they need to be aware of their presence in the world. When we have someone representing the island, you have to puff out your chest and represent; let them know you’re behind them because these things don’t happen every day,” he said. “It’s absolutely amazing that Jamaica has qualified to be one of the best in the world and pushed to be part of the Winter Olympics over the years, given that there is no snow. about the island. One thing I know is that so many people who have never been to Jamaica only know the island through Cool racesand that makes me proud to be part of this story.
Leon shared that he never thought of playing the Derice character any differently, and he admitted, “I don’t watch my movies,” because he feels he’s too critical of himself and ‘ he looks at it several times “it makes me start thinking about what I could do differently”.
Fun fact. When Disney went looking for actors for the movie, people kept saying Leon should be in the cast, thinking he was born in Jamaica. Of Jamaican descent, Leon lived in Jamaica for three to four months a year and for 10 years before landing the role in Cool races would answer to the nickname ‘Akee and Salt fish’.
Midway through the interview, the actor, who is also a singer and songwriter, launched into the patois, joking that he was the biggest foodie and lover of Jamaican food, ackee and from salted fish to steamed fish and all the inner workings of island flavors.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM
And his connection to Jamaica is multi-layered, being the lead singer and songwriter of award-winning reggae-soul band Leon and The Peoples, who he explained are on the other side of the spectrum from his career in the film industry.
“I was still in Jamaica. Usually every Christmas I am in Hopewell but was unable to travel last year. I’m culturally influenced, and as an artist I’ve done four tours with Beres Hammond – he produced my first single. So the connection is deep,” he said.
Leon added, “The band is actually a saving grace because the movie industry isn’t exactly a fun business. Besides, the music is me…I don’t play a character. In Cool races, I was not me, I was Derice Bannock, and all I cared about was what I presented as a character, the same for all the characters I played. Through music, people get to know each other and engage more with Leon, the storyteller.
Leon and The Peoples are currently looking to book dates between their acting schedule, he said, and plan to be in Negril by July. He’s also gearing up for the March 4 premiere of a new movie he’s in, a day to diewhere he plays the character of Tyrone Pettis.
“It’s an action movie starring myself, Kevin Dillon and Bruce Willis, and it’s true, my fans especially love to see me play the bad boy,” he laughed.
“But whether it’s acting, producing, directing or singing, I hope to be part of stories that last beyond my time. And one of the best pieces of advice I can give to young creatives or anyone entering the industry and [adding] to stories, is to be only you. Don’t try to keep up with the peloton. There are far too many Indians and not enough chiefs – if you understand what I’m saying,” Leon continued.