Director Kenny Leon appeared on CBS This Morning June 5 in honor of the release of his new memoir, Take You Wherever You Go.
The title of his book comes from a saying his grandmother used to tell him: “She said, ‘Take you wherever you go,’ and I wear these shoes to remember her, because these shoes remind me to stay grounded and remember that you're just a country boy from Tallahassee, Florida who grew up in St. Petersburg.” Leon was raised by his grandmother in his earliest years before moving to live with his mother and stepfather.
But his grandmother’s wisdom stuck with him. “You've got a better chance at being yourself,” Leon explains. “I've gotten to where I am now because I'm authentically Kenny Leon. I'm not like anyone else. When I work with Denzel [Washington] or Sam Jackson I think they like it because I'm my raw authentic self. They test you. They test your trust.”
Leon credits much of his success to his lack of inertia. “In life every seven to ten years you have to change jobs to do something else. You can't be a prisoner of what you're doing. So when I left that acting company it led me to go out to the world and become a director.”
He also stresses the importance of diving into unknown territory. “When I did Hairspray Live after I did The Wiz Live!, Hairspray had 800 crew people,” he says. “We had never done a live musical like that. I didn't know what I was doing. But I had to step into it.”
The director, who won a Tony for the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun, also discussed his recent revival of Children of a Lesser God and Tony-nominated star Lauren Ridloff. Watch the full video interview above.