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Name: Adam Bernard
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Taimak – The Last Dragon Still Has The Glow
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How does one become a cult hero? For Taimak it was easy–play the role of Bruce Leroy and battle Sho’ Nuff on the big screen. Back in 1985, when Taimak was only 19 years old, he starred in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon and to this day he is still recognized for the role. The film can be seen playing in college dorms practically every day and Busta Rhymes even interpolated it for his “Dangerous” video. With the movie having such a unique cultural impact it only seemed natural that its stars would gain their own version of worldwide fame. Taimak having the role of the hero, Bruce Leroy, made him a natural favorite for fans of the film. Recently Taimak sat down with me to discuss his cult hero status, the numerous interesting things he’s been up to since the movie, including pro wrestling and working with Madonna and Janet Jackson, and what kind of roles he’s hoping to get in the near future.

Adam Bernard: Having the role of Bruce Leroy in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon back in the mid 80’s turned you into a cult hero. Did you expect the movie to garner such strong reactions?
Taimak: Yeah I did, because there wasn’t anything like it and I grew up in New York and I knew it was gonna cross over because I knew that it was a likable film and I knew there was nothing else like it out there. It’s like you basically only had Chuck Norris and there wasn’t anybody else in martial arts, it was Kung Fu movies from Asia, and there was Rambo and Schwarzenegger, and they weren’t into the martial arts. So it’s just like anytime there’s a void and something fills that void it’s a no-brainer.

Adam Bernard: So you knew it was going to get the big reaction, now how have you been handling the cult hero status?
Taimak: I’m handling it fine. You have to get used to the people being very personal with you. People expect you to talk about yourself and all kinds of things. It’s like if you walk down the street and someone may come up to you and says something like “are you gonna stay at that job,” or “how’s your wife?” It’s like who are you, I don’t know you. So it’s funny. You gotta get used to it.

Adam Bernard: What kind of martial arts training did you have before, and have done since, the film?
Taimak: I’ve been studying martial arts since I was a little kid when my father got me into it and then I just continued to train all throughout my life. I’ve studied different styles. I kickboxed when I was a teenager. I won a state title when I was 18, right before The Last Dragon. My step-father would teach me boxing. He ran a boxing gym in Times Square. I trained in Japan right around The Last Dragon time. I enjoy fitness and I enjoy martial arts so for me it’s just a lifestyle. Once you really choose to be a martial artist it’s a part of you.

Adam Bernard: The DVD doesn’t make a lot of mention of what you’ve been up to since the film. So what have you been up to for the past 20 years or so?
Taimak: I’ve been teaching, I’ve done some modeling, I’ve done some choreography in Hollywood. Some of the stuff is on the Myspace page.

Adam Bernard: Yeah, I noticed you have some Janet Jackson stuff on there.
Taimak: That was a video she asked me to do. Gavin Rossdale of Bush also wanted me to teach him some stuff for “The Chemicals Between Us” video. Madonna, for the world tour five years ago, I taught her martial arts and choreographed a couple numbers in that. So I kinda got into that a bit. Then about two years ago I opened up a private training gym with my buddy in Manhattan and I’ve continued to do theater. Two years ago I did a play, the comedy rendition of Road House, it was hilarious. I played the Patrick Swayze role, and I choreographed numbers for that fight scene. Then I got off of a tour around the country with Brian McKnight and James Avery, The Fresh Prince Of Bell Air’s Uncle Phil, with a play called Cheaters. I shared the role with Michael Jai Wright. We finished that up in April.

Adam Bernard: After working with Janet and Madonna can you imagine being at a place in your life where that much follows you at all times?
Taimak: I’m already grounded. It’s a creative thing, it’s not like when you’re young and you want to show off and ride in those cars, it’s different. I’m mature and I think I’m a little more into creating projects that really inspire other people.

Adam Bernard: So there are no spinning rims in your future?
Taimak: No, I love cars but the thing is I’m more interested in participating in an experience as an artist, an experience with another human being. Riding in the cars would be fun but it’s like experiencing a woman or looking at a picture.

Adam Bernard: Very good comparison! I like that!
Taimak: You know! Going on a picnic with a woman that you have eyes for rather than just looking at a picture. Pictures are alright, but the real thing’s better, but you gotta deal with everything that comes with it, too!

Adam Bernard: Are you doing anything in life you never expected to be involved with?
Taimak: I did work with Jimmy Yang, he’s a pro wrestler, WWE now. He had seen The Last Dragon and wanted me to do some pro wrestling with him so I went out to a small town and trained with him for a bit. I never expected to do that. It was fun. I got some knowledge and it was a good experience for me overall to be involved with the choreography.

Adam Bernard: You did a couple shows, right?
Taimak: Yeah, I did one in Ohio and then another one in Roosevelt, Kentucky.

Adam Bernard: Were those ROH shows?
Taimak: No, I just did little angles in ROH, I didn’t wrestle in ROH. But on my Myspace account you can watch clips. I did get rights to one of my matches that I did with Jimmy and I’m putting that on Myspace.

Adam Bernard: So when you first did The Last Dragon where did you think you’d be twenty years afterwards?
Taimak: I guess I didn’t really think that far ahead. It was an interesting experience because it was unprecedented really, a young person like myself, 19, starring in a picture. I had never starred in a film before and I wasn’t pursuing acting. I was trained but I hadn’t been pursing it. I just came out of nowhere almost. I was trying to learn how to roll with the punches and girlfriends and all that stuff.

Adam Bernard: Did you ever hit on Vanity?
Taimak: Hit on her? {laughs} I wouldn’t exactly call it hit on her.

Adam Bernard: C’mon man, I know what the movie said but you had to have a paintbrush.
Taimak: {laughs} We had fun, but she’s a religious woman now, so take it easy.

Adam Bernard: What’s been the most pleasant post-Last Dragon surprise in your life?
Taimak: People’s reactions to me. People generally, when they see me and I get it from all different races and cultures and countries, they show their love. It’s so nice. It’s not just wow he’s an actor it’s almost like I made them feel so good. It’s a positive. That’s the thing that I find the most fulfilling, that total strangers, their reaction is so warm. It’s always so positive. I’ve never had someone give me a bad vibe. My personality, even as a teacher of fitness and martial arts, I really get off when other people are having a great time, it just turns me on.

Adam Bernard: And Busta Rhymes even did a whole homage to the movie in one of his videos.
Taimak: Oh yeah, I remember that, it was funny.

Adam Bernard: Were you in on that?
Taimak: No I just saw it, my friends told me about it. It was hilarious. I’ve never met him. I definitely like what he does. I’m sure we’ll cross paths.

Adam Bernard: Over the past few years mixed martial arts has become hugely popular in the US. Any thoughts on the UFC and their product?
Taimak: I used to referee the pre-fights in the UFC and Bas Rutten is a buddy of mine so I’ve been watching Pride and all that stuff. I’m a big fan of it. I think it’s exciting, it’s good for the combat side of martial arts. As far as young people I think it’s good to have the fighters have a responsibility around them, if they’re real martial artists, just putting out the message to young people that this is a sport and that it’s not something they do in the street, they’re not street fighters, they don’t condone that, they’re more into this as a sport. Because a lot of time young people will think oh that’s the way to be and punch somebody in the head. It’s good for them to learn fighting and then to teach people how not to use it.

Adam Bernard: You’ve done so many things that make for great stories. You’ve performed in a wrestling ring, you’ve officiated in MMA, you’ve done so many real quirky things in your life, is there any other quirky thing left that you’d love to do?
Taimak: Even though I’ve trained with Shakespeare I’ve never performed and I’d like to do that in New York City in Central Park, Shakespeare in the Park, or in Europe somewhere.

Adam Bernard: Wow, Shakespeare? Is there any other kind of acting that you’d like to do?
Taimak: I’d like to be involved with a movie like Sin City. I like those dark action oriented films. Quentin Tarantino is exploitive in a lot of films but I still like the high intense drama. I like different types of films and I’m definitely working on getting back onto the screen and doing some good stuff like that.

Adam Bernard: How difficult is it to work your way back on?
Taimak: It ain’t easy, it’s very clique-ish. Hollywood is not really about talent, it’s more about cliques, who knows who and how can we best angle this person for our own profit. But I’m trucking along and things are going very well. I’m blessed with youth and knowledge and fitness so that keeps me ready for anything.

Adam Bernard: Yeah, you hit 40, you’re 42, but since you work out all the time it doesn’t really show.
Taimak: Right. I look young but I’ve got a lot of experience, so it works for me rather than against me, luckily. I could never play someone that’s my age because I don’t look that. I could push 32 or 33, that’s probably the oldest I could play. I just like to do any roles out there that are different, that are challenging, that are entertaining. That’s what turns me on.

Adam Bernard: What should people know about you that they may not know already?
Taimak: They should know I’m not the typical Hollywood actor, that I’m more grounded in reality, the reality being that I have a connection with people, that I have a warmth for human beings, not that Hollywood actors don’t, the typical Hollywood actor doesn’t. I have a genuine feeling that I like to see human beings succeed in every aspect of their lives. That is something that I live for. If I’m working on a project I like when other people are inspired by the project, as well. I don’t like to just turn myself on, I want everybody to turn on. It makes me feel better.

Adam Bernard: I know at 42 you may be a married man, but as a Hollywood star I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of beautiful women.
Taimak: That’s the thing, I haven’t met the wife yet. Actually I’ve been thinking about that a lot this year. I think I’ll find that right person that will settle me down because you say man you’re around all these beautiful women all the time how are you gonna just chill with one? I think when you really fall in love, when you really meet someone that’s right for you then it’s a bigger context, it’s not just about the looks, it’s about your life.

Adam Bernard: So are there any hot famous names in your past or future?
Taimak: Of course. {laughs} But I don’t kiss and tell!

Adam Bernard: Ah well, had to ask. Finally, do you still have the glow?
Taimak: Of course! Once you get the glow it never goes away.

Story originally ran in Beyond Race Magazine.

Related Links

IMDB: imdb.com/name/nm0846818/
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Taimaks-Fan-Page
Twitter: twitter.com/iamtaimak
MySpace: myspace.com/taimak

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