‘American Soul’ Star, Sinqua Walls Had a Family Connection to ‘Soul Train’ Before the Show

Sinqua Walls
Sinqua Walls | Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET

Sinqua Walls is playing Don Cornelius, who is striving to bring Soul Train to the rest of the country, on American Soul. It turns out, Walls had a connection to Soul Train before getting the role.

The Cheat Sheet talked to the cast of American Soul at the Paley Center on Feb. 19. We talked to Sinqua Walls and Tony Cornelius about their family connection to Soul Trainand more.

Sinqua Walls said his mom used to dance on Soul Train

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The actor revealed that Soul Train wasn’t just a show in his household. He has a very close family member that used to be on it!

“Honestly, Soul Train meant a lot to me because I know that it was about cultural relevance,” Sinqua Walls told The Cheat Sheet. “Fun fact my mom was a dancer on Soul Train so it introduced me to a lot of culture. It gave me an affinity even deeper for my mother watching her in the kitchen on Saturdays singin’ and cleanin’ and doing her thing. It meant everything, it was nostalgia for me.”

Sadly, he never actually saw footage of his mom dancing on the show. “I have not seen the tapes,” said Walls. However, he did say that his mom would share some stories about dancing.

“She talked about more how she would go down the Soul Train line and show me the dances that she did as she went down the Soul Train line.”

Walls asked her what Don Cornelius was like before playing him

Walls talked about how he broke the news to his mom that he got the role. “So I did a little bit of a surprise thing where instead of telling her I sent her the first press release that went out saying that I booked it,” he said. “She cried, she laughed, she was excited.”

The actor researched for his role, but one unique resource he had was his own mom. “I asked her specifically when I signed on to this project ‘how was it working with Don Cornelius?’ She said he was always very focused, persistent, and didn’t play around. She said she had a good experience doing it.”

Walls also got to talk to Don Cornelius’ son, Tony before taking on the role. Tony Cornelius is an executive producer on American Soul.

Walls talked to Tony Cornelius about getting Don Cornelius’ essence

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What did the executive producer tell his leading man before he started portraying the iconic TV host? Well, their goal wasn’t to get an exact imitation of him.

“I mean one word that we agreed upon is the word ‘essence,’” Tony Cornelius told The Cheat Sheet. “You now it’s very difficult to look like someone, to act like someone, but I wanted him to be himself. It was capturing my father’s essence that was very important and I think he’s done a fabulous job with that.”

American Soul goes into Tony’s childhood as Don’s son and it doesn’t just focus on the good. He revealed why it was important to include that.

“That was very important between myself and the writers to make sure that that relationship was written in the right way,” said Cornelius “because my father and I had a very close relationship but as well a very volatile relationship as I started to grow up and started to learn things and think for myself.”

He revealed that he didn’t know that Walls also had a family connection to Soul Train at first. “Sinqua explained that to me when we first met, that his mother was dancer on the show,” said the executive producer. “So he obviously was affected by it in his own way and who would know that he would one day be playing Don Cornelius? So I thought that was fantastic.”

The people making American Soul definitely have some interesting connections between the real Soul Train. The star’s mom used to dance on Soul Train and the executive producer is the son of Don Cornelius.

Read more: ‘American Soul’: Is Gerald Aims Based on a Real Person? Jason Dirden Answers That and More

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