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Sharon Leal’s character Cleo serenades the crowd in a scene with Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac in “Soul Men.”
“Bernie would do this great impression of Sam Jackson and he had him down,” she says of being on set with the comedian. “Bernie was good at keeping things rolling along with the long hours on set; he kept us entertained. We’ve lost a phenomenal guy and to watch his farewell performance is amazing.”
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The actress says with so many comedians around it was often tough to keep from laughing.
“My character had to keep a straight face,” she says, “and it was challenging not to crack up.”
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Leal, right, made her big-screen debut in the 2006 Oscar-nominated film “Dreamgirls.” She replaced Jennifer Hudson’s character Effie in the group and joined Deena (Beyoncé), center, and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose).
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In “Dreamgirls,” Leal’s character got her break by being a receptionist in the company before joining the group.
“When Jamie Foxx’s character says come on in and he just needed a receptionist, I tapped into booking that gig,” Leal says. “It was an easy emotion to just want to get in the door.”
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Leal says many are surprised when they learn that her mother is Filipino.
“I started off with my first Broadway show, “Miss Saigon,” which doesn’t get any more Asian than that,” she says. “I won the Asian Excellence Award and I know people were like, Huh?, because they don’t know my mother is from the Philippines. Hopefully, there will be some kind of project where I can tap into that side [again].”
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Starring as Tyler Perry’s wife in his hit film “Why Did I Get Married?” helped her gain a better understanding of marriage.
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Leal, right, shares a scene with Tasha Smith, left, and Janet Jackson in “Why Did I Get Married?” The entire cast quickly became friends while filming, she says.
“When we were up in Vancouver, we were out of our element and in the snow and right away we all just bonded,” she says. “It was like camp. I made friends that I still have.”
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Leal and actress Regina King star as sisters in the holiday film “This Christmas.”
“There’s nothing like working with an all-Black cast,” Leal says of the experience.
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Mekhi Phifer plays a family friend in the film and Leal finds his charm hard to resist.
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The Cali beauty counts her success in the movie industry a blessing.
“With every job, I’m just so thankful to get to do what I dreamed of doing as a kid,” she says.
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Exuding sexiness and class is a balancing act that Leal tries to master.
“It’s definitely hard to finesse how to tap into your sexuality and not have it be a little too far and still be able to show mom,” she says.
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Leal looks forward to continuing to bring characters to life on the big screen and the stage.
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Leal enjoys the outdoors.
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