Sharon Leal is an American actress and singer best known for her work in films like Dreamgirls, Why Did I Get Married?, Why Did I Get Married Too? Additionally, she's an accomplished singer-songwriter, and has spent plenty of time on the Broadway stage. Her latest project is ADDICTED, an erotic thriller that sees her playing a sex addict struggling to resist temptation... and failing. The film co-stars Boris Kodjoe and William Levy.
I spoke to Sharon recently about her role in Addicted, shooting sex scenes, being an "air force brat", her passion for music and her crush on Keanu Reeves.
How is the new year treating you so far?
You know how it is, they always start really strong, right? All the best intentions.
Did you make any resolutions?
Every year I just try to curb any negativity, just try to be more positive, which is tough living in L.A. [Laughs] Patience and more positivity. We'll see.
So tell me about your role in ADDICTED?
I play Zoe, a woman who works in an art gallery. She's married to an architect, played by Boris Kodjoe, and they have a family with two children and this seemingly perfect life. She has some past issues that haven't been resolved or dealt with, she has a sex addiction, which is just like a drug addiction or alcohol addiction, so over the course of time she opens the door to her bad past, she winds up getting deeper and deeper into this disfunction. She starts sneaking around and cheating and trying to be satiated by all these things. I was attracted to the role because we always hear about men with sex addictions but we haven't seen too many women have it. I thought bringing to light the fact that it is truly a disease and approaching it that way was interesting. It was also a departure from some of the roles I've played in the past, and I just wanted to step out of the same things people were used to seeing me in and challenge myself a little.
Did you have to research sex addiction?
You just explore it and read about it the way you would for any role. The psychological things that were going on with Zoe were not on the page, so getting into why something like this would exist in someone's personality was important.
It seems like we have a lot of these erotic thrillers coming out. What do you think is the appeal of this particular genre?
First of all, the movie itself has some of the most gorgeous men on the planet in it. [Laughs] I think women are very titillated and excited by the idea of escapism, and these erotic thrillers push the envelope. Women love fantasies, it's something that will never get old. Women like to go into their own heads with their own sexual fantasies, so there's always a market place for it.
Are you a fan of books and movies like that?
I'm kind of straight-laced which is the irony of playing this role. I never really bought those books. I'm sure it's like reality TV, if I exposed myself to it I'd get sucked into it. [Laughs] I definitely understand the appreciation for it, it makes sense to me why people love it.
Are you comfortable shooting sex sequences? What do you do to prepare?
That was what a lot of the initial conversations we had were about, mapping out how things would be shot, figuring out shots and figuring out places where you might go a little further than other places. I think the biggest thing is just planning; you don't just walk onto set and say, "What are we doing today?" You kind of know what's going to happen and that it's all within parameters that everyone is comfortable with. At the same time, you have to be willing to dive in and be willing to do what the scene needs in order to depict it correctly. You can't play a sex addict and not go there a little bit. Once I decided I was willing to push it a bit, you just commit.
Does it get awkward with your co-stars?
Oh yeah. [Laughs] Just kissing is awkward. There are just too many people on set and it's so choreographed and planned for it to feel natural. Definitely a lot of awkwardness involved, always.
I know you're an accomplished singer as well as actress; which passion came first for you?
Singing was the first thing, as far back as I can remember I was interested in it. My professional job was doing musical theater, and I did a couple of shows on Broadway, so I always thought I'd record or be a Broadway performer. I got an agent and I started acting, and that wasn't something I thought I'd be doing when I was growing up. But now it's great to do as much of it as possible.
Singing is still your main passion?
Yeah, I'm super-passionate about it. I think it's because I think about it as more of an art form, music and songwriting. It's a little closer to who you are, the essence of who you are, whereas when you're acting you're stepping into roles that have been written for you by someone else. There's something a little more personal about music, but that doesn't detract from the fact that I love acting.
You spent a lot of time on a soap opera; I've always heard those are really difficult to shoot.
It's good and bad, because you're thrusted into it right away. Having never been in television and not understanding the technical aspect of filming it, coupled with tons of dialogue, it was crazy. They shoot like a show a day. It was a boot camp way of learning how to act in front of the camera. I was on for three years and then I moved on, but it was a great way to start.
I read that your dad was in the air force and so and you moved around a lot as a kid; was that difficult?
I think when you grow up that way you learn to be adaptable, that's what it taught me to do. Nothing shoots in L.A. anymore so you're always being shipped off here and there, it just helped me adapt. My dad moved a few times, I lived in the Philippines as a kid, then I lived in Arizona, then back to the Philippines, so there was a little bit of that. It wasn't that difficult.
Favorite place to live?
The Philippines is very vivid in my memory. There was a real natural element to it. We lived near the ocean and I just remember always being barefoot and eating mangos and coconuts and sugar cane. I remember having free reign as a kid, some of my best memories are in that environment.
Is there one goal you've yet to achieve that you're setting your sights toward?
Just continuing to do what I'm doing. Just growing, I want to continue to grow. I'm working on my album this year, so I'm really excited to just get that executed and finished. In the meantime I'm just happy for every single job; I just want to continue to work and have some longevity as an artist.
Who is your all-time celebrity crush?
People ask me this all the time, he's going to find out, I'm sure. [Laughs] I grew up with a huge crush on Keanu Reeves and it hasn't left me. I get teased about it really bad, but it's the longest one I've had, the one I remember having since I was 14-years-old.
I met him last year and he looks the same as he always has.
He hasn't changed! I went to the premiere of JOHN WICK and I went into denial mode, like I just pretended he wasn't standing on the red carpet fifteen feet away from me. I totally couldn't deal at all.
Thank you again for your time and good luck with the album!
Thank you, really appreciate it!