Leon plays Pettis, who is more than your mustache-twirling villain in a new action film, A Day To Die starring Kevin Dillion (Entourage) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Armageddon, The Sixth Sense) spoke with The Illuminerdi about what inspired his character and why cheese action movies are fun.
Leon also opens up about working with the up-and-coming director, Wes Miller, working with the legendary Bruce Willis in the genre that made him famous and finding the character of Pettis.
Leon Discusses His Character, Tyron Pettis
The Illuminerdi: I’m a big fan of action movies, and this one seems like a throwback from action movies that I was so familiar growing up with, except that it has a lot of modern-day sensibilities. The characters feel a lot more fleshed out than you would see back in those early nineties movies. But one of the characters that really caught my eye is Tyrone Pettis. Talk to me and chat me up a little bit about Tyrone Pettis.
Leon: Tyrone, he’s the antagonist of the movie for sure, which feels like him against the world, but he’s not your typical antagonist. He’s one that cares for his community. He’s one that is on the wrong side of the law because he feels like he has to be. I think he makes for an interesting character, especially in an action movie.
The Illuminerdi: I couldn’t agree more. There’s that scene when we see him directly interacting with the community around him, asking for like report cards. It shows that he actually takes a vested interest in his community. Is there anyone that you drew inspiration from when channeling Pettis?
Leon: No, not really. I think one of the great things about acting on film and when they’re done properly is that you have conversations with the director and the writer. You have conversations, extended conversations. I was able to have that with Wes Miller. I think because of that communication, you saw what you saw. I always say that a good performance of an actor in a movie is a combination between him and the director.
It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. If the director doesn’t put me in the right frame and doesn’t frame me right and put me in the right situations, you don’t see it.I like working with Wes. I think he’s an up-and-coming action director. The fact that him being an African American makes him even more interesting to me.
The Illuminerdi: The tone and this cadence and this swagger that Pettis has, that there are little nuances that you could tell it’s more than just your typical villain of the week.
Leon: That’s exactly what we both of us wanted. We wanted him to be a villain that stood out, that was different. That you’d be talking about after the film how it wasn’t just like any other film you saw.
The Illuminerdi: What did you want to bring to the role of Pettis that wasn’t necessarily on the page?
Leon: What I wanted to bring in the role of Pettis is someone that is, one, someone that you like to watch because he’s unpredictable. I’ve always liked to be that person on screen that you watch and just go, “Oh, oh, all right.” This movie and this role allowed me to do that. I got to chew up some scenery.
An actor, when you get a chance to do that, hopefully, make the most of it. What I wanted people to see in Pettis was somebody that has a heart, who cares about this community, that is a victim of a circumstance more than anything else. I think there’s a scene with Candace, in which he reveals a part of himself that you wouldn’t have known if she didn’t ask that question.
For more of our interview with Leon from A Day To Die, continue to page 2.