Isaiah Mustafa may be the new David Leisure. You remember Leisure: Joe Isuzu, the smarmy car pitchman who could catch a speeding bullet in his lying teeth. Back in the mid 1980s, the little-known actor turned his starring role in a series of funny commercials into a long run on NBC’s sitcom, Empty Nest. Now Mustafa, who’s famous as Old Spice’s personification of studly virility, is swan-diving into bigger projects. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mustafa announced that he’ll portray a cop in the upcoming Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman comedy, Horrible Bosses. Throw in a talent agreement with NBC, a guest spot on Chuck, and a role in Tyler Perry’s next movie, and Mustafa’s future smells pretty sweet.
The question, of course, will be whether he’ll ever be accepted playing a character other than the one that made him famous. For Leisure, Joe Isuzu was both a blessing and a curse, since his range became limited when so many of his subsequent characters incorporated Isuzu’s unapologetic insincerity. Mustafa has expressed an interest in playing superhero Luke Cage, and if he wants to eventually be considered for that type of action role, he’s going to have to be able to make audiences forget what made him famous in the first place.
According to Mustafa, he has a few months left on his Old Spice deal. Should he be hoping they call him to make another ad, or should he play hard-to-find, as repeated performances as the ultimate man could make it harder for him to be accepted in other roles?