Actor James Lesure has appeared in many television series and in films. He is perhaps best-known for playing the role of Mike Cannon, a casino surveillance agent, in the hit TV series Las Vegas. Whether playing an exconvict or a high-tech wizard, or appearing in a Shakespeare play, a sitcom, or a thriller, Lesure has gained both devoted fans and critical respect.
Born September 21, 1975, in Los Angeles, Lesure did not aspire to an acting career in his youth. Athletic and serious, he attended the U.S. Air Force Academy after high school but quit in order to continue his studies at the University of Southern California, where he majored in theater. He later did additional studies at the University of Kent, England. During his student years Lesure began to appear on stage in a variety of plays, including Hair and The Island. He also continued to pursue athletics, training as an amateur boxer.
Returning to Los Angeles after completing his studies, Lesure worked to launch his fledgling acting career. He joined a professional theater company, landing the coveted role of Macduff—the wronged noble who is the title character's chief rival and eventual slayer—in Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth. By the late 1990s Lesure had begun appearing in minor television roles on such series as Seinfeld, Diagnosis Murder, and NYPD Blue.
His big break came in 1998, when Lesure was cast as Mel Ellis, a newlywed husband, in For Your Love. The costarring role in the popular program, which won the NAACP Image Award in 2000 and 2001 for outstanding comedy series, brought Lesure prominent attention. Set in a comfortable Midwestern suburb, For Your Love centered around three heterosexual couples at different stages of their romantic relationships. Lesure played a successful lawyer who has recently married his fiancee, Malena. The couple moves next door to Malena's best friend, Sheri, who has been married for 15 years to Dean. Mel's younger brother and his girlfriend, wary of a legal commitment, are the third couple. During the show's five seasons, the couples share experiences and advice on how to get along with romantic partners. Mel and Malena also learn to cope with the competing demands of job and family life, especially after the birth of their child.
Critics who enjoyed the program singled Lesure out for particular praise. "Newlywed Lesure's deft delivery is a highlight," commented Carole Horst in Variety. Interviewed in Jet, Lesure said that he enjoyed playing the part of a successful black professional adjusting to marriage. He also pointed out the interesting relationship between Mel and his brother. "It's nice showing a warm, endearing relationship between Black men who are brothers," remarked Lesure. "It's very positive. They kid each other, but it's in a loving way."
When For Your Love ended in 2002, Lesure went on to appear in other television series, playing a CIA agent in Alias and Captain Boyle in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, among other roles. By this time he had also begun to break into movies. He was cast in a minor role as a guard in the 1995 hit Crimson Tide, a psychological thriller about a mutiny aboard a nuclear submarine that starred Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, and James Gandolfini. In 2006 Lesure was offered a small but significant role in The Ring Two, sequel to the 2002 horror film The Ring, which starred Naomi Watts. In the sequel, Watts again plays Rachel Keller, a young mother who flees to a small town in Oregon to protect her son, Aidan, from the forces of evil unleashed in the first film. But danger has followed them, and it sets its sights on Aidan. The boy develops symptoms that force Rachel to take him to the hospital, where the attending doctor—played by Lesure—discovers marks that make him suspect Rachel is abusing her son. Lesure told The Trades interviewer Scott Juba that he liked the first Ring and the script for The Ring Two. "So I'm interested to see the final cut to see how they put [the sequel] together."
In 2006 Lesure got his first starring role in a movie, The Package, playing an enterprising ex-convict, Bounce, who wants to make a quick $75,000 by agreeing to bury a mysterious package in the desert. Bounce enlists the help of his brother, a partly deaf ex-boxer, and of their former crime partner, Vance, but things do not go as smoothly as Bounce had planned. Shifting to comedy, Lesure played a supporting role in Loveless in Los Angeles, a film about a burned-out producer of reality shows who, after unexpectedly meeting up with his old college girlfriend, discovers he is weary of his womanizing ways.
Increasingly busy with his film career, Lesure continued to make frequent TV appearances. In 2003 he joined the cast of a new drama series, Las Vegas, set in a high-stakes casino in the title city. Starring James Caan as the head of the casino's security team, the series was described by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley as "slick, fast-paced and engaging." Lesure's character, Mike Cannon, is sexy, cool, and brilliant, and really knows his way around state-of-the-art monitoring equipment—he just happens to have an advanced degree in engineering from MIT. His portrayal of Cannon won Lesure a 2006 Multicultural Prism award for outstanding male actor in a TV drama.
The opportunity to work with seasoned actors like Caan, Lesure told Juba, is something for which he is grateful and that allows him to continue learning about his craft. Lesure also appreciates the increased visibility that Las Vegas's success has brought him, explaining in the interview that he hopes to work on "great projects" and that "it's nice that I'm getting the chance to do that on Las Vegas."
A bachelor, Lesure resides in Los Angeles. As his acting career continues to flourish, he is thinking ahead to additional movie roles as well as projects on which he could work as a producer. An avid sports fan, he was voted Most Valuable Player of the NBA Entertainment League in 2006. Also that year, Lesure's public service for sickle cell disease education and research was recognized when he received the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California's distinguished support award.
At a Glance …
Born on September 21, 1975, in Los Angeles, CA. Education: U.S. Air Force Academy; University of Southern California, BFA, theater; additional study at the University of Kent, England.
Awards: Outstanding Male Actor in TV drama, Multicultural Prism Awards, 2006, for Las Vegas; Distinguished Support Award, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, and Most Valuable Player of the NBA Entertainment League, both 2006.
Addresses: Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Crimson Tide, Hollywood Pictures, 1995.
The Ring Two, DreamWorks SKG, 2005.
The Package, Radical Projects, 2006.
Loveless in Los Angeles, Pisces Epics, 2007.
For Your Love, 1998-2002.
Las Vegas, 2003-.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 2007.
Jet, May 11, 1998, p. 30.
Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2003, p. E17.
Variety, September 21, 1998, p. 47.
"For Your Love," TV.com,http://www.tv.com/for-your-love/show/258/summary.html (August 21, 2007).
"Interview with James Lesure," The Trades,http://www.the-trades.com/article.php?id=2998 (August 14, 2007).
"James Lesure," Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0504571/ (August 21, 2007).
Lesure, James 1975–
Lesure, James 1975–
Original name, James LeSure; born September 21, 1975, in Los Angeles, CA. Education: University of Southern California, B.F.A., theater; also attended the Air Force Academy and the University of Kent. Avocational Interests: Boxing.
Addresses: Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Manager—Vincent Cirrincione & Associates, 8721 Sunset Blvd., Suite 205, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Publicist—Kyle Avery Public Relations, 1107 Fair Oaks Ave., Suite 321, S. Pasadena, CA 91030.
Guard number two, Crimson Tide, Buena Vista, 1995.
P-Nut, Show and Prove, 1998.
30, Still Single: Contemplating Suicide, 1998.
Kevin, Giving It Up (also known as Casanova Falling), Lions Gate Films, 1999.
Shekar Orr, African-American Idol: The Search for the Next Black Leader (short), 2003.
Hotel valet, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, Dream-Works Distribution, 2004.
Doctor, The Ring Two (also known as Samara and Samara: Ring 2), DreamWorks Distribution, 2005.
Clint, Loveless in Los Angeles, 2006.
Television Appearances; Series:
Mel Ellis, For Your Love, NBC, 1998, The WB, 1998–2002.
Mike Cannon, Las Vegas, NBC, 2003–.
Television Appearances; Movies:
A. C.'s cop, The O. J. Simpson Story, Fox, 1995.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Himself, Intimate Portrait: Holly Robinson Peete (documentary), Lifetime, 2000.
Holiday with the Stars, E! Entertainment Television, 2000.
Jesus Christ, What Wouldn't Jesus Do?, Showtime, 2002.
Host, 50 Hottest Vegas Moments, E! Entertainment Television, 2005.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Russell, The Johnny Chronicles, ABC, 2002.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Guy, "Things I Do for Love," Martin, Fox, 1992.
Delivery man, "No Degrees of Separation," Hope & Gloria, NBC, 1995.
Lieutenant Charlie Stone, "Eyes," Space: Above and Beyond, Fox, 1995.
Lieutenant Willis, "Vishy-Vashy-Vinny," NYPD Blue, ABC, 1995.
Maitre d', "The Glue People," Mad About You, NBC, 1996.
Ray, "Burnout," Pacific Blue, USA Network, 1996.
Kalvin Kani, "Working Girls," Martin, Fox, 1996.
"Murder on Thin Ice," Diagnosis Murder, CBS, 1996.
Officer worker, "The Bizarro Jerry," Seinfeld, NBC, 1996.
Carl Murray, "Moonstruck," Dangerous Minds, ABC, 1996.
"Critical Mass," The Burning Zone, UPN, 1997.
Alan, "Drew Gets Married," The Drew Carey Show, ABC, 1997.
"Private Peterson," Saved by the Bell: The New Class, NBC, 1997.
Ralph Cooper, "Fix Me Up, Tie Me Down," Getting Personal, Fox, 1998.
David Gordon, M.D., "Dinner Party," Suddenly Susan, NBC, 2000.
Marcus Hodges, "Hand Job," NYPD Blue, ABC, 2002.
Ben Adams, "Token of Appreciation," George Lopez, ABC, 2002.
CIA Agent Craig Blair, "The Indicator," Alias, ABC, 2002.
CIA Agent Craig Blair, "Passage: Part 2," Alias, ABC, 2002.
Brian LeFine, "The Big Pilot Episode," Half & Half, UPN, 2002.
Brian LeFine, "The Big Forget-Me-Not Episode," Half & Half, UPN, 2002.
Brian LeFine, "The Big Game of Love Episode," Half & Half, UPN, 2003.
CIA Agent Craig Blair, "A Higher Echelon," Alias, ABC, 2003.
Johnny Sloan, "Radioactive Spider," The Division (also known as Heart of the City), Lifetime, 2003.
Johnny Sloan, "Acts of Betrayal," The Division (also known as Heart of the City), Lifetime, 2003.
Himself, "Sinning in Sin City," BET Style, BET, 2005.
Appeared in Hair; The Island; and as Macduff, Macbeth, Los Angeles.