With every New Year comes inspiration for progression, growth, and change. For actress Sharon Leal that inspiration is an everyday theme. With a career spanning almost two decades, the film star has had her nose to the grindstone and because of it that she’s been able to not only work with some of the biggest names on the planet, but also in a variety of arenas, such as recording studios and Broadway stages. Her career has taken her from day time television with a role on the soap opera, Guiding Light, to stealing our hearts in prime time with a role on Boston Public. She held her own alongside some of the biggest names in the business in Dream Girls and shined in Tyler Perry’s two incarnations of Why Did I Get Married? Through it all she has made several appearances on Broadway. The half Filipino-half African American actress cites being blessed with simply being able to have opportunities that help her grow as an individual and provide continuous work, the exotic beauty spent some time with us to share some of her life as well as her newest projects. You may have heard chat about her latest movie Addicted as well as her EP and forthcoming album debut, now she’s giving you the behind the scenes point of view.
Parlé Magazine: Some of our readers may recognize your work over the last couple of years but I happen to know you’ve been an entertainer for years, when would you say you started your career?
Sharon Leal: I think it was when I was 19 years old. I started on Broadway doing musical theater as my first professional job and after that I stayed in New York for a while, finally got an agent and then I started auditioning and doing a little TV. I definitely began my career on stage though.
Parlé: So what would you say drew you to the decision to become entertainer?
Sharon Leal: You know I’ve actually always known that. It’s very funny because I have a vivid memory of being three to four years old and singing and wanting to perform but being a very shy and introverted person. I remember having to go and perform for my nursery school in the Philippines, and it’s so funny because it’s so clear in my mind even though I was so young, that when the music started I sort of just pushed my way to the front and felt really comfortable. I’ve always been drawn to it, I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Parlé: You’re working credits alone is a testament to that passion, having done Broadway, TV, etc. and worked with some big names. How does it feel to have come so far from so long ago?
Sharon Leal: It’s incredible! You know I’ve just sort of “putt putt” my way through my career (laughs). I don’t have a huge career, but I’ve always been able to support my livelihood by doing what I love and I don’t take that for granted. I know how hard it is to do this and while there’s so much that I want to accomplish I’m just really grateful that I keep continuing to work. It’s just really amazing when you get to do what you love.
Parlé: And by “putting through” you’ve landed in the company of artists like Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, and Boris Kodjoe. That must be inspiring.
Sharon Leal: Of course. I’m so inspired by other people at the top of their game. One of my favorite parts about being in this business is all the amazing people who inspire me through their work. Every time I hop on to a set there is someone that makes me think, “Oh wow, I’m so lucky to work with this person.” You learn a lot from other people, particularly a community of artists, people who really care about the work. Those people make me better and I love being around people who have a lot of integrity and work hard.
Parlé: Has having worked with many different types of artists and projects swayed your love for one or the other? Music over movies perhaps?
Sharon Leal: Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. I think back in the day usually you had to choose one when you wanted to succeed at something. These days we’re just living in a time where people can be multi-faceted like entrepreneur/artist/actor – people are doing as much as they can, which is a good thing. I thought I would only do music as a child and throughout my early teens and became an actress that I had to put music on the back burner but I never had to abandon it because the universe kept putting it in my life through the acting I’ve done like Dream Girls and a TV show I was on called Boston Public. I’ve never really had to fully abandon what I do so I wouldn’t really choose one or the other.
Parlé: Agreed, now is definitely a time for artist to showcase their many talents, is that what led you to release your EP Leal?
Sharon Leal: Well, I’m working on my official album coming out next year, but I just got to a place where I thought “you know I have been sitting on music, and I’ve got tons of songs and ideas.” I felt a calling to just put it out there. To just get into the studio and see what these songs are and collaborate with people. It was really just a passion piece that was speaking to me and I couldn’t get away from it so I decided to just do it and have fun.
Parlé: Did you have any expectations on how people would react to it?
Sharon Leal: Ummm I didn’t really do it with any expectation outside of just doing it. I think people are blessed with certain abilities and I think it’s just unfortunate when you don’t tap into them or explore them so it doesn’t really go any further than that. I wanted to take the time and find the outlet and enjoy doing and to just execute it and put it out there just for art sake.
Parlé: And after taking time to prepare this EP, what can your fans expect to hear when they get their copy?
Sharon Leal: Well there are six songs and they are pop songs that are kind of introspective and positive but it’s really just a straight kind of pure expression of life. I’m working on some edgier stuff but this EP you’ll hear some piano, violins, you know some acoustic stuff and maybe some dance. It’s kind of just straight forward and uplifting.
Parlé: Sounds like a great listen. I would like to switch gears to talk about another release. How did you come about landing the starring role in the new movie Addicted and how was the filming for you?
Sharon Leal: Well you know, I just got a phone call (laughs).
Sharon Leal: You know this a s script that scared a lot of people, myself included, because it’s very ,very tricky to be in a movie with this much sex (laughs). You try not to compromise yourself too much but you also want to try and maintain what makes the story compelling. We haven’t really seen a woman who is educated, has a great career and a great family who is suffering from a disease like this and I tried to really approach it in that way. The executive producers called me and asked me about it and after talking and thinking on it and going through the script I felt like it would be a challenge and so I said yes.
Parlé: Zane’s book character can definitely be a challenge compared to your previous roles, how did you prepare for it?
Sharon Leal: Well I hadn’t read the Zane books. I’m not much of an erotic novel reader, but I’ve heard they really go “there,” more so than the movie but I just approached it by focusing on the disease itself. I tried to find out what the triggers were and the psychological aspects of it and approached it that way. Similar to a period piece I did a couple years ago in a film called 1982 where I played a mother with a crack addiction. It was very similar because I think sex addiction is just like any other addiction. I just tried to keep that objective in mind.
Parlé: That’s a great way to do it instead of being a racy character yourself.
Sharon Leal: (Laughs) This character is definitely racier than anything I’ve ever done before and I typically don’t play roles like this, but you know some times you want to switch up people’s perceptions of you. It’s fun to hop into different roles and have people say, “What? Is that the same person?” (laughs). For example from that, I worked on a period piece that was set in the 60s called, White Water which is a very religious kind of film. That film premieres in February. You know I think I just want to change from role to role and have a departure from other roles I’ve played.
Parlé: Can you see yourself reprising this role in say a film series or maybe another dark character? Sharon Leal: I don’t think so! (laughs) I feel like I did it and now hopefully moving on. It’s not something I would make a habit of doing it or wanting to become “the erotic sex chick.” (Laughs). It was a great experience and even with the concerns I had initially I’m proud of what we did, but it’s time to move on. I’m always looking for different shoes to step into ideally.
Parlé: Awesome, it seems that progression and variety are recurring things for you. Any other film/TV projects in the works?
Sharon Leal: Actually yes, I’m working on a show for ABC Family that starts shooting next. That’s all I’ve got in the can so far, but hopefully more soon.
Parlé: I’m sure there’s a ton in store for your 2015.
Sharon Leal: Yeah, I hope so. I’m always amazed that I’m working, you know. I see so many talented people working around but so few opportunities so I’m always grateful to be working.
Parlé: Speaking of other entertainers trying to find work, any words of advice for those who haven’t quite gotten to where you are?
Sharon Leal: Oh gosh, well I would say everybody’s road is different and there is no real sort of blueprint for someone’s career so you have to stay focused on your path. If you look outside of yourself too much you can get off track. I think you should stay focused and just do you because it’s very easy to get yourself distracted and discouraged when you don’t. That’s it! (laughs)
You can find more of Sharon Leal on social media below. Her debut album will be released next year. In the mean time check out her latest video, “I Wont Say” below.