Diary of a Single Mom
Image nominated and Young Artist Award winning African-American actor and singer Leon Robinson, sometimes simply credited as Leon, was a basketball player before emerging as a professional actor in 1981. First gaining fame with Madonna's music video “Like a Prayer” (1989), he jointly took home a Young Artist Award in 1990 for his work on the TV film “A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story” (1989), which starred Alfre Woodard. He received his first Image nomination nine years later with his starring role of singer David Ruffin in the Emmy nominated miniseries “The Temptations” (NBC, 1998). He was handed his next Image nomination after portraying singer Little Richard in the NBC biopic of the same name in 2000. Other TV credits include recurring roles in the series “Central Park West” (1996), “Oz” (1997) and “Resurrection Blvd” (2001) and a hosting gig on the short lived late night talk show “The L-Bow Room” (2004). On the wide screen, Robinson is perhaps best known for portraying Derice Bannock in “Cool Runnings” (1993). He has also acted in such movies as “Cliffhanger” (1993), “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), “Bats” (1999), “Buffalo Soldiers” (2001) and “Get Rich Die Tryin” (2005). As a singer, Robinson is the lead vocalist of his band Leon and the Peoples.
Recently appearing in “Cover” (2008), Robinson also played roles in the film “Capers” (2008) and the series “Diary of a Single Mom” (2009-2010).
Childhood and Family:
Leon Preston Robinson IV, who would later be popular as Leon Robinson, was born on March 8, 1962, in New York, New York. He was raised in the middle class suburb of Mount Vernon by his parents, a transit agency executive and a school teacher, until he won a scholarship for basketball at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He played for the university's team in 1978 and 1979. Leon was also educated at Mount St Michael in Bronx, New York, and Orange Coast College in Newport Beach, California.
Leon Robinson originally headed to Los Angeles to pursue a basketball career, but later switched to acting. Making his professional debut in 1981 when he landed a part in the CBS Afternoon Playhouse production of “Journey to Survival,” the New York native appeared on the big screen when director Michael Chapman handed him a small part as Tom Cruise's teammate in the film “All the Right Moves” (1983). He went on to appear in such films as Garry Marshall's “The Flamingo Kid” (1984, as Matt Dillon's co-worker), the action “Streetwalkin'” (1985) and “Band of the Hand” (1986). Robinson made his TV movie debut in 1987 with a supporting part opposite Louis Gossett Jr., Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Ron McLarty in “The Father Clements Story.”
After appearing in “The Lawless Land” (1988) and the Dennis Hopper directed “Colors” (1988), Robinson was launched to prominence in Madonna's controversial music video “Like a Prayer” (1989). He was then cast in the ABC miniseries “The Women of Brewster Place” (1989), starring Oprah Winfrey, and costarred with Alfre Woodard and A.J. Johnson in the biopic TV film “A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story” (also 1989). The latter project brought Robinson a Young Artist for Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast.
Returning to film, Robinson received a role in “The Five Heartbeats” (1991), directed by and starring Robert Townsend, and costarred in Renny Harlin's blockbuster thriller “Cliffhanger” (1993), which starred Sylvester Stallone. However, he did not graduate to a leading man until he was cast as Derice Bannock in the biopic “Cool Runnings” (1993). Under the direction of Jon Turteltaub, he impressed audiences with his portrayal of the first Jamaican bobsledding team's high spirited captain.
Next up for Robinson, he shared top billing with Duane Martin in the basketball film “Above the Rim” (1994), teamed up with Al Freeman Jr. and Phylicia Rashad in Tim Reid's “Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored” (1995), was featured in the successful dramatic comedy “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), directed by Forest Whitaker, and portrayed a painter named John in the based-on-book “Spirit Lost” (1996). Before costarring in the romantic drama “The Price of Kissing” (1997), which he co-produced, he had recurring roles in the series “Central Park West” (1996, as Gabe Sands) and “Oz” (1997, as Jefferson Keane). He also appeared in the motion picture “Pure Danger” (1996) and the television film “Runaway Car” (1997).
In 1998, Robinson was hired to portray the legendary singer David Ruffin in the NBC miniseries “The Temptations” and received an Image nomination in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series for his work on the Allan Arkush directed program. The miniseries was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Miniseries and won an Image in the same category. He rounded out the decade appearing in the movie “Bats” and the biopic TV film “Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: The Alan Freed Story,” where he played singer Jackie Wilson.
Robinson was put back in the spotlight in 2000 when he starred in the NBC biopic “Little Richard,” directed by Robert Townsend. He netted an Image nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for his performance. The following year, Robinson returned to series TV when he joined the cast of “Resurrection Blvd” in the recurring role of Lawrence Hill. He also had an unaccredited part in the Will Smith vehicle “Ali” and supported Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Harris and Scott Glenn in the comedy film “Buffalo Soldiers.”
Following guest spots in “Crossing Jordan” and “Hack” (both 2003), Robinson hosted the late night talk show “The L-Bow Room” on BET. Debuting in October 2004, the show quickly left the airwaves. In 2005, he revisited the movie realm with a featured part in Jim Sheridan's “Get Rich Die Tryin,” starring rapper 50 Cent. He then resurfaced in the film “Cover” in 2008 and appeared in the comedy “Capers” (also 2008), where he costarred with Danny Masterson. In 2009, Robinson was cast as Ronald in the television series “Diary of a Single Mom” (2009-2010).
Robinson is also a professional singer. His band is called Leon and the Peoples.
Young Artist: Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast, “A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story,” 1990