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SOSOCAL / CHAT ROOM

'Soul Train's' New Conductor

August 06, 2000|STEVE POND

The sonorous baritone of Don Cornelius may mean "Soul Train" to most people, but since January, that venerable music show has had a new host in 30-year-old Shemar Moore. He won this year's Emmy for supporting actor in a drama series for his role as Malcolm on "The Young and the Restless." Throw in stints hosting the Miss USA Pageant and playing a songwriter in the Fox midseason replacement series "Celebrity," and you've got a guy who might become, in his words, "a very overworked, under-slept actor."

You were born in Oakland but raised overseas. Why?

To be honest, it was a real rough time in Oakland. There was a lot of unrest going on, and my parents thought it wasn't a good place to be raising a kid from an interracial marriage. We moved to Denmark, where my mom got a teaching job, and then to Bahrain, where she put me in a British school. I was this little kid used to running around naked in Denmark, and suddenly there I was in the Middle East with all these proper British kids, having tea.

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Any culture shock when you came back to the United States at age 6?

When I played Little League baseball, the first time I hit the ball, they caught me out. I ran to first base anyway. My uncle had to talk to me to get me off. I went into the house and yelled, "Mummy! I hit the ball with the stick and ran to the mat!" And my uncle, who played ball in the Red Sox farm system, thought, "No nephew of mine is going to go around saying, 'I hit the ball with the stick and ran to the mat.' " So he started teaching me to play.

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Well enough that you envisioned a major league career.

I always liked to perform, but my real dream was to play in Fenway Park. I don't know if I would have been good enough, but I still wonder: What if my coach in college hadn't pushed me to be a pitcher? What if I hadn't blown out my shoulder? It's that old thing: Actors want to be athletes, athletes want to be actors.

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You're an actor, but you've also taken over Don Cornelius' job as host of "Soul Train." Sounds like a high-pressure gig.

Most definitely. I teased Don when I started. I said, "You've got some big-ass feet--don't even think I'm about to try to step in your shoes."

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As the new host, any changes you'd like to make in the train?

No. Don's still in charge, and there's really not a lot the host can do. I just try to keep it moving, make it as fun and as flavorful and as informative as possible, and hope people enjoy the ride.

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