Luke James: “I Had To Respect The Process”

(photo credit:

Luke James is a Grammy-nominated artist who toured with Beyoncé on both the American and European legs of her Mrs. Carter World Tour. He’s a talent songwriter who has written songs for musicians such as Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Keri Hilson, and Justin Bieber. James has also been People magazine’s Sexy Man of the Week and appeared in GQ and Vibe.

But nothing could have prepared him for the role he took on as Johnny Gill in the BET mini-series, The New Edition Story.

Getting the story right was the key consideration for those involved. All six members of the group — Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill — served as producers, so who played each of them was key. But when it was time for Johnny to meet James, everything seemed to come together organically.

“It’s funny because we’ve hung out and have been hanging out with each one of our guys who are playing us so they can kind of get some kind of idea of our character and our personality,” Gill says. “And sure enough, Luke comes in the room — because I’m the craziest one out of them all — so he comes in the room with his crew doing the same thing that I’m doing without really being around me; the life of the party, always talking and ranking on somebody, always creating and stirring up something that’s got people crying laughing.”

(Luke James as Johnny Gill / Photo credit:

He continues, “And I’m looking at this guy going, ‘This fool, this is me over here.’ He’s just capturing the essence of who I am. And as we began to hang out and talk and I’m starting to go, ‘Wow,’ and he said, ‘That’s why I went out for the role because I could identity and connect with you.’ And I knew that from the jump. When they would say, ‘Why don’t you try out for Bobby?’ he was like, ‘Nah, this is the one that I can connect with.'”

But from Luke’s side, the process of getting in the film was harder than it looked.

“Kudos to the producers, because they didn’t tell us that we got it–that we got the part until later. So all the rehearsals, all the dancing–they told us the first day, that ‘we’re still looking’ for the cast. So what that did was to humble us. So we had to respect the process. It’s their legacy. From Johnny to Bobby to everyone, it’s their legacy and we had to honor that.”

“For me, it was a challenge, a personal challenge,” continues James. “Getting this role and having to have to learn how to dance, helped me all around. It was hard. It was definitely hard.”

To keep his body in tip-top shape, James trains whenever he gets a chance.

His intense workout consists of:

– Warm-up run of 10 laps up-and-down one of the piers
– Four sets of 25 fast-paced jumping jacks to begin the breakdown of his core (all of his exercises follow a strict four-set count)
– 20 weighted “Mayweather situps” — a regular situp develops into an explosive full-body stand