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Exclusive: Sinqua Walls Talks About Playing Don Cornelius In BET’s American Soul

The series is set to premiere with back-to-back episodes on February 5

Set to premiere with back-to-back episodes on February 5, 2019 at 9pm ET/PT on BET in the U.S. is its scripted period drama “AMERICAN SOUL,” a 70s-set drama blending fictional and real-life characters and moments inspired by the untold rise of iconic music and dance program “Soul Train.”

Everyone knows Soul Train, but not everyone knows what happened when the music stopped. “AMERICAN SOUL” is the story about the struggle to make the dream of Soul Train come true. Set in the early 70’s, filled with music, dance, fashion and glamour, this is the untold story of the launch of the first nationally-syndicated Black music show and what happened when the music stopped. Battles with record labels for top talent, off-camera drama as young dancers vie for the spotlight, stand in the way of a 30-something Don Cornelius who is sacrificing all that he loves to follow his dream. The journeys of these characters collide in a racially charged LA with the odds stacked against them. All they have is each other and the magic of Soul Train.

The cast includes Sinqua Walls (Power, The Breaks) as Don Cornelius, Kelly Price (Grammy nominated singer), Jason Dirden (Greenleaf), Iantha Richardson (This is Us), Katlyn Nichol, Jelani Winston, and Christopher Jefferson.

Produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment, “AMERICAN SOUL” is executive produced by Jesse Collins, Jonathan Prince, Devon Greggory and Tony Cornelius with Co-Executive Producers Andy Horne and Dionne Harmon. Greggory and Prince will also pen the pilot.

Best known for starring in the period music drama The Breaks, as well as Starz drama Power, Walls was also featured in Clint Eastwood’s feature 15:17 To Paris. Walls will next be seen in a starring role opposite Angela Basset in the upcoming Netflix film Otherhood.

While promoting the series at the Crosby Hotel in New York City, Blackfilm.com spoke with Walls about playing the legendary Don Cornelius. Here are some excepts he said regarding the series.

WHO IS DON CORNELIUS

Sinqua Walls: Don Cornelius is the creator of a show called Soul Train, which was one of the longest running national televised syndicated music shows on television, Thirty-Five years this man created an idea in the 1970s and we saw it go for 35 years and what he did was bring black culture music to the forefront of what we see as mainstream media.

DECONSTRUCTION OF AN IMAGE RECONSTRUCTION OF A MAN

Sinqua Walls: So what I’ve always said in American Soul, in the fact that it is biographical we’re going to jump into multiple facets of this man’s life. And what we saw about Don Cornelius for the years of Soul Train was only on Saturday we saw, Saturday, Don, Superman if you will but we didn’t see his life Monday- Friday and Monday-Friday is what we’re about to see in this show American Soul.

You’re about to see what the man went through, what he overcame and how he tried to move himself forward and his family forward and the people around him forward. And that’s why I say the reconstruction of a man is going to come to the forefront, because you may gain more respect for him, you may be mad at him, you may love him, you may hate him but at the end of the day you’re gonna understand that he was a man that went through a lot of stuff. Not just Saturday

ON THE SHOW HAVING THE FAVOR AND APPROVAL OF FAMILY

Sinqua Walls: Absolutely! I think that’s the biggest gift you can get and that’s the ultimate approval that you want, specifically for me as an actor, I’m paying homage to a man’s father and not only someone he looked up to but someone he knew really well so if you get it wrong you’re getting him wrong you’re getting his legacy wrong , so the fact that they gave us the cosign and fact that he gave me the cosign was a gift beyond gifts.

SPEAKING WITH INTENT TO CAPTURE DON’S ESSENCE

Sinqua Walls: The biggest thing about Don, he had a journalism background and he also worked in radio, so he spoke with a rhythm and a cadence and learning how to do that when you give intent to inflection and focus on telling a story narratively that was the focus. The voice register everyone has their own voice but the intention behind which they speak is what I had to learn to do more so, because Don in his life only spoke when he needed to say something and Don as a host made sure everything he said had potency. So I had to make sure my intentions were clear and every time I represented this man on the screen.

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