Taimak (pronounced Tie-Mock) got his first taste for the entertainment business when he was very young. At 10 years old, he had the privilege to meet legendary director and family friend Frederico Fellini. Mr. Fellini took Taimak on a tour of the set of “Roma” where he also met another film legend Vincent Minelli.
About ten years later, and after winning the New York State kickboxing championship, Taimak was cast by music mogul and Motown legend Berry Gordy in the lead role of “The Last Dragon”. He played the unforgettable Bruce Leroy, the Bruce Lee wannabe in search of “The Glow”. He was quickly catapulted to stardom and a career that has spanned over twenty years. Taimak has appeared in over a dozens plays, including the highly successful “Roadhouse the Comedy” at the Barrow Street Theater in New York City, playing the notable role of Dalton in this zany comedy rendition of Patrick Swayzes 80’s cult classic film and the national tour of the star studded cast of “Cheaters”.
I got a chance to catch up with the pop culture icon, and we discussed everything from who else was up for the role of Bruce Leroy to his sexuality (you know I had to get the dirt!). Check out the full interview below…
Carlton Jordan: How many people call you Bruce Leroy on a daily basis? Does it offend you? Taimak: Fans call me Taimak mostly, but also Bruce Leroy, it doesn’t offend me at all.
Taimak: Although the character has made a huge impact in my life, I eat popcorn with my hands, not chopsticks and I don’t walk the streets of N.Y. wearing a kung fu outfit. I did idolize Bruce Lee growing up and martial arts is and always will be a part of me.
Carlton Jordan: What is your full ethnic background?
Taimak: Dad is Italian and Mom is African Americana (smiling).
Carlton Jordan: Who in the cast do you still contact / keep in touch with?
Taimak: It breaks my heart to say that Julius and Leo have passed; I was in contact with both of them. Denise Mathews (Vanity) contacted me on Facebook a few years back, but we haven’t been in contact lately. I’ve only bumped into some of the cast over the years, always good vibes…but no one lately.
Carlton Jordan: Do you know who else was up for your role when you were first cast in Last Dragon?
Taimak: Berry Gordy showed me a tape of many actors/martial artists, but I only knew Mario Van Peoples was in the running and Van Silk at the time was seriously considered.
Carlton Jordan: Who did you get along with the most? Who was the toughest to get along with?
Taimak: Tell you the truth I really enjoyed working with everyone.
Taimak: I don’t think it’s resolved on whether it will be a remake or not. Trying to remake a classic is very hard. As far as Rihanna, she’s very talented and I think everyone deserves a shot, but it’s all about the chemistry between the two leads.
Carlton Jordan: Who would you think could play your part?
Taimak: I have no idea…but I’ll be there for him if he needs me.
Carlton Jordan: Are you still heavily involved in martial arts?
Taimak: Although I’ve been a martial artist my whole life, I really like the challenge of learning something new. I met 4x world Jiu Jitsu world champion Marcelo Garcia over a year and a half ago and began training with him in his style. It’s been very exciting.
Carlton Jordan: Do you feel like Michael Jai White has carried your black martial arts legacy? Who is the next generation Taimak that you see?
Taimak: Like myself, Michael has been a martial artist since he was very young, and I’m happy for his success. I would like to see more martial arts films made, I’m not dead you know (laughing). I don’t see anyone that’s taken the torch if that’s what you mean. I believe Jaiden Smith has a shot. I believe any young martial artist that’s willing to have the courage to look within and work hard can achieve anything. I think what people enjoyed about my character in “The Last Dragon” was that he was REAL, he was humble yet passionate. Young men could identify with him, he wasn’t a stereotypical hero that had no flaws…he didn’t have all the answers, he was vulnerable, he had to believe in himself. It was an honor to play Bruce Leroy.
Carlton Jordan: Have you left the acting world?
Taimak: No, I’ve been doing alot of theater and developing my own projects. I had to grow before I gave it another shot.
Carlton Jordan: If not, what’s next for you in your career?
Taimak: I’m a new person and I have a new manager and publicist. It’s really refreshing to have new blood after all these years. I’ve written a film about a New York City detective (me), which uses his wit, his gun and his martial arts to bring down a powerful sinister man.
Carlton Jordan: You have many male and female fans. Do you get hit on by both sexes a lot?
Taimak: Yes, I’m flattered but I’ve been attracted to ladies only since I was 4 years old.
Taimak; With a sidekick to the head (laughing).
Taimak: I can’t say it didn’t hurt when I got the news, but I’m dealing with it, you’ve got to turn it into a positive. I really don’t have the answers; death is a part of life and a mystery at the same time. I leave it in God’s hands.
Carlton Jordan: Sometimes it is hard for an actor to get past a major role they’ve done, for you it was Bruce Leroy. Do you think taking that roll pigeonholed you or stalled your career?
Taimak: My journey in life has been to own my power, I’ve only recently discovered how much I gave it away. You’re only as limited as you think you are. I’ve always been blessed, yet always had obstacles to overcome, but that’s life, my job is to have gratitude and a healthy outlook.
Carlton Jordan: How do you feel about the current state of Black films? Action films?
Taimak: Black folks need to be educated on how the film business works, how Hollywood movies get green lit. This way when they go to a theater and only see the same familiar faces they know why. White folks green light movies in Hollywood, there’s more blacks on the small screen, but until we become more united as a human race, and until black folks green light studio films, it will always be difficult having blacks portrayed the way they want. We have to invest in entertaining independent films that create more heroes that inspire us to be better human beings. We need to create our own content and marketplace to show it.
Carlton Jordan: Would you take a reality show deal if offered?
Taimak: It depends on the deal.
Carlton Jordan: What has been the biggest struggle for you since doing The Last Dragon?
Taimak: Adjusting to American culture. I grew up in Europe. I don’t think I fit in to well back then. I understand the culture better now.
Carlton Jordan: How do you feel about Vanity getting into the ministry?
Taimak: If it’s working for her and she’s at peace that’s all that matters. That’s what I wish for everyone.
Carlton Jordan: What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Taimak: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
Taimak recently performed in a stage play “The First Lady”, written by award winning writer Lawrence Floyd. As martial arts choreographer and teacher, Taimak has been sought after by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He’s worked with Debbie Allen, Madonna on her Drowned World Tour with the rock group Bush as choreographer of their “Chemical Between Us” video. He has guest starred on several national television shows as well.
Writing and making his directorial debut with a film noir detective story, titled
“I’ve Seen Things” is currently in development. He created a wellness program for young people in 2009 http://www.unfoldingdream.org. He delivers the seminar in “at risk” communities around the country. He continues to inspire and entertain us with his unique and endless talents.