Karon Joseph Riley: From The Gridiron To The Big Screen, His Journey To Success

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He’s an amazing actor, producer, director, entrepreneur, and former professional athlete. It seems there’s nothing this multi-talented man can’t do. The Fleet Mag reporter Becky Gaston, AKA DJ Pynk Dyamond, had the pleasure to have a candid conversation with the one and only Karon Joseph Riley. He discussed how he got started in acting, what drives him to be great, and his plans for the future.

Karon Joseph Riley was born and raised in The Motor City of Detroit, Michigan. He has many talents but being creative and acting tops his list. At the young age of six he participated in his first stage play, which was “Puss in Boots.” He only had two lines, but it was one particular line, “Not I said the cat,” that sent his mother and grandmother into a frenzy as they screamed with excitement. Those five words changed his life forever and it was at that very moment that Riley knew he wanted a career in acting.

Riley’s mother saw something special in her son, so she began to set the foundation for him as an entertainer. He had a natural talent for wowing audiences at a young age, and being on stage seemed like home to him. His mother began taking him to the local shopping mall to perform dance routines by The King of Pop, Michael Jackson. His love for performing grew more and more, but as he got older his interest in other activities began to evolve, revealing another special talent, but this time, on the football field.

Karon Joseph Riley was unstoppable on the gridiron as a defensive end and outside linebacker. He acknowledged that his talent for playing football was a gift from God, and that gift led him to a seven year professional career in the NFL and the AFL. Riley loved the game of football, and he is very thankful to have had the opportunity to play at such a high level. But there came a time when he had to admit playing a contact sport like football is not something you can’t do forever. Riley says football was part of God’s plan for him because it helped shape his life and build a strong work ethic. Being an athlete and facing challenges on the field played a major role in preparing him for his next endeavor, which was his lifelong dream, being a professional actor.

Riley worked hard to perfect his craft as an aspiring actor. He reflected on actors he admired and watched growing up such as Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Bill Cosby, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Phylicia Rashad, Idris Elba, Samuel Jackson, Wendell Pierce in Death As a Salesman, Sidney Poitier, and Dorothy Dandridge. He elaborated by saying, “I enjoy watching black actors be great.”

Riley obtained his first professional role on Tyler Perry’s hit sitcom “Meet the Browns.” He appeared in a scene alongside his real-life wife Terri J. Vaughn, who starred on the show as Renee. Riley admits he was terrified on the set and his nerves got the best of him. When it was time to deliver his line, he felt he did not do a good job, then out of the blue he heard the show’s director, Kim Fields shout, “Brilliant.” Knowing that someone of her caliber thought he did a great job helped him to relax and instilled the confidence in him to work even harder to become the best actor he could possibly be.

Riley can’t thank Tyler Perry and Kim Fields enough for putting the wheels in motion for him to live out his lifelong dream as an actor. He also credits them for introducing him to SAG-AFTRA (The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). Riley enjoyed every moment working under the leadership of Perry and described what it’s like behind the scenes.

“He runs a tight ship and it’s a great experience for any young actor getting into the business. It’s always a proud moment to see a black man accomplish things like Tyler. You have to work fast with Tyler and get a lot of dialogue in. It’s a bootcamp life environment and its fun, exhilarating, and necessary. Everything he does is top tier.”

Karon Joseph Riley has now been a staple in the film and entertainment industry for over a decade. He’s appeared in dozens of movies and sitcoms throughout his career including 35 and Ticking, Little, The Holiday Stocking, Love Thy Neighbor, Saints & Sinners, and The Black Hamptons. Riley has been very successful on the big scene and owes it all to his huge support system including his wife, kids, parents, friends, and fans who encourage and pray for him along the way. With his wife being an extraordinary actress they both understand there are times when each one of them may work 12 hours or more on the set filming. He says the key to balancing work and home life is to “Just embrace every moment and always communicate with each other.”

Even with a busy schedule Riley still finds the time to give back as a celebrity spokesperson for The Sickle Cell Foundation in Georgia. This charity is very dear to him as his mother passed away from sickle cell.

Though Riley has achieved a lot throughout his acting career there are still a few things on his to-do-list, that’s perform on Broadway and visiting Africa. When asked why Africa, he said, “Because it’s home. I found out that I have ancestors in Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

With all the many hats Riley wears in the film and entertainment industry we asked if he would consider hosting a reality or game show like many other actors. His response, “I don’t have any immediate aspirations for it but I’m open to anything. I’m capable of anything and I’m open to anything. If the universe sends it and everything lines up then I might receive it”.

Riley has an outstanding past and a promising future. He plans to produce and release more of his own projects within the next few months. He stated, “There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the work that you created on the big screen, but as a producer, it takes time to develop the project before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. ” One challenge Riley mentioned he’s facing is obtaining the financing required to release these projects and getting placement on television and streaming platforms.

When asked if he has some words of wisdom and encouragement to others who have their sights set on a career in acting he stated, “If you see it in your vision it’s yours, but you got to put the work in and you got to believe in yourself above and beyond anybody else before they believe in you and keep pedaling. Don’t ever give up.”

In closing, Riley told us about his really cool podcast, “Nice Watch,” which he host with Ernestine Morrison each Friday. “We give you the inside take on what to look at and just kind of tell you what’s a nice watch. It’s basically designed for you to watch our show and find out what you and your mate can watch for the weekend without wasting time searching through 400 movies or 400 stations. You waste two hours searching for something then when you get something and its terrible.” Nice Watch is a great resolution to eliminate channel surfing and go directly to a good show or intriguing movie. With more and more people spending their weekends at home it’s pleasing to know you can tune in to their podcast and find out what’s good to watch and plan your movie schedule for the entire weekend. “Nice Watch” can be found on all streaming platforms.

Karon Joseph Riley is truly an amazing talent and he’s destined to do even greater things. With his drive, determination, and mindset there are endless possibilities for what he can accomplish. We look forward to seeing more of his projects on the big screen.

Interview by Becky Gaston AKA DJ Pynk Dyamond – Written by: Janice Pritchett AKA JP