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August 05, 2008

James Lesure 1

"James Lesure gives new meaning to the term, Hollywood Hunk. His inspiring talent and magnetic charm, both on screen and stage, complement a firmly grounded personality." — from James' official bio and, from what I can tell, all true!

James Lesure guest stars as a famous boxer in "Mr. Monk Takes a Punch" which debuts on Friday, August 8th. James is probably best known for his role as Mike Cannon in the recently canceled NBC series Las Vegas. He'll be joining the cast of Lipstick Jungle, a NBC show filmed in New York, for their second season beginning Wednesday, September 24th.

Thanks to his publicist, Lisa, I got a few minutes on the phone with James earlier this week.


How did you get the role in "Mr. Monk Takes a Punch"?

I had worked with the gentleman who directed the episode. His name was Barnet Kellman and he gave me a call and let me know that he had me in mind for this particular role in the episode. So they got in contact with my representation. It wasn’t a slam dunk. It wasn’t just straightforward, because a lot of the producers over at Monk weren’t familiar with my work. According to my manager, they had to find some of my previous work: the stuff I had done on Studio 60 [on the Sunset Strip]. I had a recurring role on that. So they had to find Studio 60 and send it over to the executive producers of Monk and then they were able to say okay.

Why do you think they chose you? Why do you think the director had you in mind for the role?

I like to think that they felt like I could do the job and I’d say physically I was sort of right for the part. He was a boxer about my age. I’d say for those reasons I think and hopefully because we had worked well together in the past. I used to work on a sitcom called For Your Love. Barnett directed the pilot and he directed several of the episodes so we were very familiar with each other.

James Lesure 2

What's the character's name?

I couldn’t tell you. [Laughs] I guess I sort of dumped it.

I know how that goes.

I can tell you Friday is when it’s supposed to air.

Right. This Friday.

Yeah, right now I don’t remember it.

[I looked it up. He plays Ray Regis.] Okay. What kind of character is he?

James Lesure 4

He’s a boxer that’s trying to get a second chance at a title fight basically. He’s been pounding away at it for years literally. He had an opportunity in the past, but it didn’t work out for him and so now he’s trying to get a second shot at the title.

So he’s a good guy, right?

Yeah, I would say so. He’s not perfect. You’ll find when the episode airs that he has made some mistakes along his path, but I think he’s a sympathetic character.

How did you prepare to play the role?

I started training immediately, doing some boxing training. I had some experience in my past in amateur boxing when I was in college and so I got back into the jam pretty quick. I think that was a big part of it for me – feeling physically like a fighter. In about a week’s time I just started training as heavily as possible, doing two workouts a day and things like that and watching what I ate. I was preparing to get into the mindset of a boxer.

So you didn’t find it difficult to get back into that mindset?

I found it fatiguing, frankly. I definitely felt like I wasn’t in boxing shape. So it took a bit of effort, yes, but it felt good to get back into it.

So are you in boxing shape now?

No, that’s gone away now too. Yeah, it’s all gone.

Did you work with the entire cast?

I did work with the entire cast, but most of my stuff was with Tony Shalhoub and Robert Loggia. He’s in the guest cast of the episode as well.

Right. He’s terrific.

Robert Loggia
Robert Loggia

It was an amazing experience. Amazing experience. I’m so glad I was able to do it. I was very fortunate. I feel like I learned from both Tony and Robert. Just the company alone made it worth doing this project. It was pretty awesome. Pretty inspiring.

So how would you compare doing a guest shot on Monk with working on other projects, like Las Vegas?

James Lesure 3
James Lesure in Las Vegas

This was sort of unfamiliar ground for me so I had to get adjusted and adapt rather quickly. I actually worked pretty hard during the week, because my character was heavy in the episode. I worked eight days out of that week. That was not the case when I worked on Las Vegas because it was an ensemble piece. I’d get a day or two off maybe during an eight day shoot. So I felt like I was working harder than I have in a little while, harder than I did for Las Vegas.

Besides just the time you put in was it more difficult being a guest star than it was working on your own series? Is it just a little harder to get into the role?

I felt like I had to find it faster. Being a regular on a couple of shows, I felt like there was time to find the character and take the character in new directions. I prefer being a regular on a show, for other reasons as well, but I feel like I would have more time to explore things about the character.

And with Monk you just had to get it, right?

You have to get it right away. And I respect anybody who can do it, because I think it’s a challenge to be believable and to be ready to go right now.

So do you have any phobias of your own?

Yeah, I hate rats. I don’t know if that’s a phobia or what, but it is not my thing.

That’s just sensible.

Elephants and Mice
Are elephants afraid of mice?
Click here for the Mythbuster answer.

Yes, that’s sensible, okay. So that’s not so much a phobia, but I tried to give myself a little slack about that because of, I don’t know if it’s a myth, big elephants being afraid of little mice. I’m like if a huge animal like an elephant can be afraid of a mouse....

And rats are even bigger, right?

Yeah, yeah.

What do you enjoy most about acting?

When I feel connected to a piece it invigorates my spirit. It helps me feel vibrant. I don’t know: it may release positive endorphins. I don’t know what it is, but when I’m connected to a piece it really makes me feel alive. I like the thought of entertaining people, hopefully brightening up their world. So I like that. Yeah, things like that.

And what do you like least about acting?

I hate the idea of unemployment. You know I’ve been very fortunate in my career and I hope I continue to be, but I always feel like I can rely on unemployment if I ever wanted to do that. [Laughs] It’s always there. So that sort of uncertainty about the business is least appealing to me.

So is there never really security?

It doesn’t feel that way at least to me right now. Later if I get to the point where I’m a Brad Pitt or a Clooney – ask me that question again.

James Lesure 6

You've done a lot of theater. Do you enjoy it more than television or film? Or is it just different?

I think it’s just different. It’s live so it’s more immediate. I liken it to what I imagine a musician must feel having that immediate response from an audience. So in that sense it’s sort of physically more engaging, chemically more engaging, but there are things that I also like about film work or television work.

Are there other areas of film or television that you’d like to work in?

I feel like I don’t have as much film experience as I’d like so I’d definitely like to do more in that medium.

You've been called a "Hollywood Hunk". Do you find that description flattering? Or does it make you uncomfortable at all?

James Lesure 7

Well, that comes from my publicist, but I believe she hit the nail right on the head. It’s quite accurate. [Laughs] No. You know what beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I always appreciate it if someone has a kind word to say about my physical appearance. You know, I want that. So I hope that women appreciate what I look like, but you know what can I do? I got what I got and I’m just trying to do the best with what I have.

So, it’s a perk, right?

Yeah, if somebody finds me attractive, I’ll take it.

Okay. So I understand that you’ll be on another NBC show now, Lipstick Jungle?

Yes I’ve started now with a recurring role on Lipstick Jungle in the last three weeks.

What is that role about?

He’s the boss. He’s the boss of the company that the show takes place in. It’s sort of a multi multi-million dollar company. That’s what I know about him right now. He goes in to make positive changes.

How far have you gotten in the role?

I’ve gotten far enough where I‘ve been able to fire someone. Oh yeah, I’m not going to tell you who, but somebody goes. Somebody gets the sack. [laughs]

James Lesure 8

Professionally speaking, is there any one thing that you'd most like to do that you haven't done yet?

Let me see. Yes, I would love to star in.... I used to love the first two Indiana Jones films —I didn’t see the last one but the first two— I’d love to maybe star or play a significant role in a movie like that, a movie that’s just straight entertainment with a great level of believability.

Lots of action?

Yeah, I wouldn’t mind that. Action and comedy, throw some romance in there. Have it all, you know. Those movies always make me feel good.

And a blockbuster would be good?

I ain’t mad at a blockbuster. I am not mad at a blockbuster. I see how Batman’s doing right now. That seems to be cool to me.

Yes, it’s pretty impressive.

It may be commercial, but I feel I’m very entertained by both The Dark Night and the one that preceded that.

It seems like that genre has gotten a lot more complex.


I’d like to see you in something like that.

Thank you. I hope to be there for you.

Is anything like that in the works or is Lipstick Jungle keeping you busy?

Right now I’m just focusing on Lipstick Jungle. Nothing concrete in the film world. It doesn’t feel like right now, but I’m open to it at any moment.


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