Isaiah John talks Leon’s redemption in ‘Snowfall,’ filming without John Singleton

EXCLUSIVE: The FX star says his character is facing a complicated path after accidentally taking the life of a child

Isaiah John is ready to reach new heights with his Snowfall character, Leon.

The 25-year-old Atlanta native has had to dig deep emotionally during this season of the FX series, showcasing his acting range in episode five, which saw Leon racked with guilt after accidentally killing Skully’s daughter. During one pivotal scene, Leon is visited by Franklin’s (Damson Idris) mother, Cissy (Michael Hyatt), who gives Leon a safe space to finally break down and express his grief.

The scene represented a new challenge for John, who told theGrio exclusively that he it was his “first time ever being that vulnerable in a scene I’ve performed.”

“I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get to that space,” John said on Monday. “I just tried to put myself in Leon’s shoes as much as I could. I remember that day, even from when I woke up, I was just trying to think of the set up all day, like sad scenarios, to put me in that mood of sense of loss, because he accidentally murdered that little girl. He felt terrible about it.”

Isaiah John attends the premiere of FX’s “Mayans M.C.” Season 2 at ArcLight Cinerama Dome on August 27, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

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He continued, “By the time I got on set, I was just listening to sad music or music that I felt was sad, to put me in that mood. As soon as they yelled, ‘Action,’ I took my headphones out. As soon as I took my headphones out, that feeling of sadness went away. I was like, ‘Alright, whatever, I’m just going to keep going.’ But I feel like that worked out in my benefit because it allowed me to go through the whole transition of the emotion, instead of starting off teary-eyed.”

Looking ahead to episode six, Leon is now on the run from Skully (De’ Aundre Bonds) and Manboy (Melvin Gregg), with the help of Franklin, who is gearing up for war with the two drug dealers. So, how does Leon recover from the guilt? And will Franklin’s help impact his strained relationship with Leon?

“I don’t think anybody can fully recover from that, because that’s really traumatic [when] you take an innocent life, and especially when it wasn’t on purpose,” John explained about Leon’s path to forgiveness. “So I think he just has to learn to deal with it, you know, learn to cope with it and kind of hope for the best.”

“From the beginning of this season, Leon and Franklin have had their issues,” the actor said when asked about predictions for episode six. “I feel like at the end of the day, Franklin realizes that no matter how he feels about Leon, whether he felt like Leon is just too impulsive or too emotional, whatever the case may be, he needs Leon.”

Premiere Of FX's "Snowfall" Season 3 - Red Carpet
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 08: (L-R) Dave Andron, Michael Hyatt, Angela Lewis, Amin Joseph, Isaiah John, Damson Idris and Carter Hudson arrive at the premiere of FX’s “Snowfall” Season 3 at Bovard Auditorium At USC on July 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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This season of Snowfall is not only pushing the cast to reach new levels with their talent, it’s also the very first season without creator and executive producer John Singleton, who died in 2019 after suffering a stroke. John told theGrio that filming the season without Singleton was difficult, but the director’s lessons still remain.

“We are always sad going to set and having to remember he use to be here, but I honestly feel like we’re excited to fulfill his vision and to fulfill what he wanted and what he started. We all talk, we all communicate with each other, and we motivate each other, we’re there for each other, and John was able to create this sense of family on set. So we continue to keep that alive, with the cast, the crew, like everyone is literally connected.”

“It’s interesting because the past three seasons we all could have sworn each season was going to blow and pop. The fact that the pandemic happened worked in our favor because, of course, a lot of people were able to be home and binge-watch Snowfall. So we were honestly just so anxious and excited for [this season] to come out. Because we knew that this one was going to be the season to go to the next level.”

Snowfall airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.

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