Introducing a new central character to a well-established program is one of the hardest things to pull of in television, but J.B. Smoove managed to do it flawlessly when he joined “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as Leon Black. He says in our recent webchat (watch the video above) that Leon fit in right away because “I think Larry David needed another foil. He needed someone to shake things up a little bit.” But he also points out that his approach to playing Leon is very central to making it all come together. “It’s like walking on a tightrope with no net and it fit me perfectly. [Leon] is an amazing presence because you don’t know which way he’s gonna go.”
After working in various projects as an actor and stand-up comedian for years, Smoove served as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” from 2003-2006 and earned a WGA Award for it in 2007. He made his debut on “Curb” in 2007 at the beginning of the show’s sixth season. Leon moves into the David household when his sister and her kids are taken in by the Davids after they’re displaced by hurricane even though he was already living in Los Angeles. Almost immediately, Leon became a fan favorite. Even after his sister moves out of Larry’s house, Leon stayed behind and continued to be a part of the show.
Smoove also discussed how there are certain similarities between himself and Leon. “I always like to get a rise out of people but I’m also a guy who loves to take the long way around.” He explains that a lot of this is used in his stand-up act and how he takes notice of the different circumstances that surround him in a particular moment. “I might have a premise but it changes constantly because I use my improv skills. We have to be attentive to listen to what exactly this particular audience is laughing at. Is it my mannerisms? Is it my delivery? My body language? I gotta listen to what is presented to me.” He adds that, like Leon, he’s also able to take a thought and then turn that into a whole page of dialogue.
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