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Shemar Moore talks about his role in Diary of a Mad Black Woman

As a heterosexual male, I don't say this very often about a guy. But this is an exception. In person, Shemar Moore is, well, gorgeous. He wears a fitted, striped blue shirt that shows off his physique, and his deep stare and chiseled cheekbones make him an instant candidate for one of those "50 Sexiest Men" contests.

In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Moore's character, Orlando, is every woman's not-so-secret dream. He's sensitive. He has old-school values. He even tells a woman—with a straight face—that he "wants to be her knight in shining armor." The former soap-star sits down with the Latino Review to talk about his performance, the genius of Tyler Perry, and how he was almost a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Now as John Candy would say in Planes, Trains, & Automobiles after accidentally spooning with Steve Martin: [in manly voice] Now how ‘bout them Bears!

Your character Orlando. Was that the Shemar in real life or was that just the Shemar acting?

Shemar Moore: I'm a lot of people. I'm a lot of people. That's what we're trying to let you all know. You've seen a couple of masks I've put on, and this is a new mask to put on. Orlando, for me, is going to hopefully show men that it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to put your heart on your sleeve. Okay to have that softer side – the softer side in the sense of being able to listen, to deal with fear, to not always be so dominant. Let a woman have her place, because as you provide foundation for her, she provides a foundation for you. And through that vulnerability comes strength.

So was it Tyler [Perry] or the script that swayed you to do this project?

Shemar Moore: Tyler came to me first. I went to his play prior to what he's doing now, which is Madea Goes to Jail. The other was one was Madea's High School Reunion. I met this man and within – in one meeting, we sat down and had a two-hour conversation. It was about the easiest conversation you could possibly have with a stranger. There was just a sense of feeling and getting each other and being interested in each other and into each other's craft.

He said, "I see something in you that I think can bring some words to life that I have in a script called Diary of a Mad Black Woman. It was a play and I want to make a movie. Do you want to be a part of it?" After we spent some time together and I really got a sense of who he was and what it was he was trying to do – and obviously business-wise, it made sense. Y'know? But then when I saw the cast – Cicely Tyson, Kimberly Elise - I signed up!

If you weren't an actor what would you be?

Shemar Moore: Baseball player. Yeah, that was my dream before acting, or alongside acting. My uncle played semipro for the Red Sox. I lived out of the country for the first six years in my life and when I came to the country – my mother's from Brighton, Massachusetts. Go Red Sox. Go Patriots. [Laughter around the room.] My uncle, I watched him play, and I was just so awe-inspired by what he did on the baseball field.

What position would you have played?

Shemar Moore: I could run, but I was throwing 93 mph coming out of high school. So I got drafted by Baltimore and Boston, and I thought I had a chance to play at Fenway Park. But I got drafted out of high school, and my mother wasn't having it. She was like, You're not about to think that you can just play ball, because if you get hurt, you're going to be out of work. So you're going to go to school, and you're going to get that piece of paper, and then you're going to do whatever you want to do."

Because I could throw so hard when I got to college they made me a pitcher. If I had to it all over again, I would have stuck to playing in the outfield. I loved running. I can catch everything in the outfield. I could throw people out from the fence. That was my thing: you get to play everyday, you get dirty every day. Pitching you can only play every four days. You got to sit there and watch.

In "Diary" you play the ideal guy. Was there any pressure?

Shemar Moore: Y'know, it took me a minute to find the truth in it. Because I had to find it in myself. I'm like that with most of my work. I'm not saying that I am all of my characters, but for me to bring a character to life, you've got to be able to find your own truth. You know what I mean? So I didn't trust him at first. I was just like – y'know, I have a line in the play where it's like, "You may not believe in fairytales, but if you did, I'd want to be your knight in shining armor." [Laughs.]

There's a thing called game, and when you're out and you're trying to push up on a female and you're going, "Yo, I want to be your knight in shining armor," chances are you're going to get a drink on your face. But that's the lesson in all this. It was truly a lesson in don't take something at face value. You know, so many of us do in life. Whether it's because of how somebody looks or because of what they're wearing, you kind of assess a person in the first five minutes before they even speak.

And a lesson in this movie is dig beneath the surface. And so with my words, with my character, I purposely created a character that was away from how you've known me thus far in my career. So that's what the cornrows were about. I gained 15 pounds. That's what the beard was. It's like, Let me just flip it. Let me just hide a little bit so you can get caught up in who this guy is.

Who are your acting heroes?

Shemar Moore: Sidney Poitier. Anthony Hopkins. I look at leading men because that's ultimately what I'm aspiring to do. But I also look at character actors and people that I'm just in awe by, just because I can relate to it. I admire Brad Pitt, honestly, just because of how he started and the obstacles he had to overcome to have the career that he's had. Now at this point in his career he's getting the credibility that I think he deserved a long time ago, but you had to get through that shell that he has. Denzel. Jodie Foster. De Niro.

Do you face the same kind of challenges that Brad Pitt does – that they take you at face value and don't think about the talent underneath?

Shemar Moore: Sure. [Pause.] I'm stalling because … you know, Brad Pitt's beautiful. But he's white. So there's a difference. You know, I don't play the race card a lot. I'm half-black, half-white, and I'm proud of it- my skin is brown. The world sees me as a black man, but my mother didn't raise me as a black man. She didn't raise me as a white guy. She rose me as she wanted. She said, Don't worry about being black or being white. Just be you, and tell your story.

That's why I can look at Brad Pitt and at the same time look at Denzel. You know, I look at Halle Berry, who has been judged and celebrated for her shell. She's had to fight her fight to be taken seriously and do "Monster's Ball" and things like that. So yeah, the reason I respect that is because I can relate to only be taken at face value, to be stuck in a so-called box because of the physical attributes and the whole bit.

What's next for you?

Shemar Moore: Well, now that those doors are opening for me, the answer is I don't know, but I do know it's in the world of feature film. Television is in a different time because of reality television, so it's not as exciting.

There's stories out there. If I could do Harry Belafonte, if I could bring him to life, like Jamie brought Ray to life, one day. That's not today. That's not tomorrow. Maybe five years from now. Maybe ten years from now. I want to have a good time. I want to tell some heartfelt stuff like Orlando. Then I want to do some action thriller stuff.