Karon Joseph Riley played in the NFL and the Arena Football League. Now he’s building a career in Hollywood.
Riley co-stars in the original TV One movie Coins for Love, alongside Essence Atkins (Ambitions, Marlon), Stephen Bishop (Fatal Affair, Being Mary Jane), TC Carson (Living Single), and Kendrick Cross (Ambitions).
Over the last few years, Riley, 41, has been adding credits to his acting resume, including Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Bounce TV’s Saints & Sinners, and the 2019 feature film Little.
The athlete-turned-actor told Urban Hollywood 411 he always knew he wanted a career in movies and TV.
“It didn’t happen overnight. It was a thing I started planning before I even planned to go to the NFL,” Riley said via Zoom. “I wanted to be an actor in the first grade when I played Puss in Boots in a play. Then shortly after that, my athletic aspirations took over for a while.”
He played for the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons and later, the Cleveland Gladiators.
“I did that for as long as I could. Everybody knows that an athlete’s career is shorter than most because of the physical aspects of it,” the Detroit native explained.
In his new romantic drama, Riley plays Jake Morris, a free spirit who admittedly isn’t the best dad to his children.
“That’s not who I am, so it’s like this will be fun to be able to be a big kid without any kind of sense of responsibility,” Riley explained.
Jake has a lot of relationship drama in the film, something Riley says he can relate to after playing in the NFL and meeting women at every stop.
“I played in the NFL when I was in my 20s and a had a lot of money. I had plenty of relationship drama,” Riley said with laughter.
Directed by Jamal Hill, Coins for Love centers on single mom Madison Morris (Atkins) who finds herself caught between starting a new job, making ends meet and raising two teens on her own. Making matters even more complicated, she finds herself torn between an old flame and a new love interest.
The movie is produced by Swirl Films, with Urban One Founder Cathy Hughes and Eric Tomosunas of Swirl Films serving as executive producers.
Coins for Love is a sequel to TV One’s 2018 holiday film, Coins for Christmas.
Riley says Coins for Love will shine a spotlight on “Black love,” and give viewers something to smile about during these difficult times, as the nation deals with the coronavirus pandemic and Black people demand racial justice following the in-custody death of George Floyd.
“This is a chance for everybody to step back for an hour and a half or two hours and see something positive,” he said.
Coins for Love debuts Sunday night, July 19, on TV One at 9/8C, followed by an encore presentation at 11/10C.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story ran on The Black News Channel. Watch the video below.