A lot has been written about the musical talents--or lack thereof--of Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac in "Soul Men," but there's one actor in the film who really does bring it.
Sharon Leal, who plays Cleo Whitfield, the daughter of one of the key players (no spoilers here!), shows off her vocal gifts in this comedy that hits theaters on Friday. Known mostly for her roles in "Why Did I Get Married?", "Dreamgirls" and "This Christmas," Leal says singing is her first love.
"It is," Leal said. "I've always sung since I was a kid. My first gig was on Broadway doing musical theater and I really feel comfortable in that realm. I just sort of fell into acting--as passionate as I am about it--but singing was the first thing I gravitated towards."
"Soul Men" director Malcolm D. Lee said that the Tucson, Arizona native had "a great voice." Leal is currently working with producers, experiementing with pop, R&B and accoustic soul tracks in the studio.
"I've always wanted to cut a record," she said. "I'm trying to find my sound. It's a big passion of mine. It's not an easy busy but I'm always pursuing it and I look at it as sort of a cathartic outlet to write and to sing. I would love to eventually get a good shot at it."
In "Soul Men" Floyd Henderson (Mac) and Louis Hinds (Jackson), a popular singing duo from the '60s who have been estranged for more than 20 years, reunite to perform at the funeral of their former band mate. Along the way they stop in Oklahoma and hook up with Cleo, the daughter of their former backup singer who has passed on. Cleo hits the road with them and sizzles on stage. Leal enjoyed being on stage with Jackson and Mac.
"It was great fun," she said. "I love the stage and both Bernie and Sam had a lot of fun with the choreography and they were so great on 'I'm Your Puppet' and the line dance scene and 'Walk in the Park' was great fun. I love that stuff. I love big performance numbers and we definitely had fun with it."
Although Leal knew Mac had been sick, she was still stunned to hear about his death while she was in New York.
"The whole time I just kept thinking that he was going to be fine," Leal said. "We were just in Memphis, he was doing the dance steps, he was laughing and doing an impression of Sam. So, when I heard it, it was just sort of unbelievable. It was pretty early in the morning. Obviously it was devastating and pretty shocking."