Who's Your 'Diddy'? Sean Combs the Serious Actor

He went from Puff Daddy to Puffy, P. Diddy to just plain Diddy. For now, you can call him Sean Combs, serious actor.

The rapper-turned-fashion designer-turned vodka pitchman denies reports he plans to change his alias (again). Instead he returns to his real name as the star of the ABC television movie, "A Raisin in the Sun," an adaptation of the classic Lorraine Hansberry play in which Combs made his Broadway debut in 2004.

"That's my name so that goes on the list of the names I already have," he said.

It's hardly a revelation from the man of many monikers, but fans may be seeing "Sean Combs" in the credits more frequently as he claims acting is taking the lead among his many ventures.

"I'm transitioning from a recording artist into doing more acting," Combs said.

He's quick to say he will still be making music, but Combs' current focus is on the small-screen premiere of "A Raisin in the Sun," airing Feb. 25. The award-winning Broadway cast, including Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan, will reprise their original parts for the movie. Executive producer Combs returns to his stage role as the struggling father Walter Lee Younger, Jr.

"I feel like this was a role that I was destined to play," Combs said. "This is the role of a lifetime for any actor. It changed my life."

Though he's known as a hip-hop mogul so flashy he once employed a personal umbrella-holder, Diddy — ahem, Combs — is no stranger to struggle. He says he mined the memories of his own upbringing to portray Walter Lee, a down-on-his-luck chauffeur forced to live in a small apartment with the women in his family and his young son.

"My father was killed when I was three," Combs said. "I had my first son and I still didn't make it yet … these are things that I think we all have gone through."

Combs' life experiences seem to have helped him portray a character in a high-profile Broadway revival some skeptics felt was out of his league. Eyebrows were raised; murmurs circulated. Could the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy really make it on the Great White Way?

Rashad, who began her career on Broadway before becoming a household name on "The Cosby Show," insists Combs wasn't considered the cast's weak link.

"I never felt that he just needed help. I never felt that way about Sean," she said. "Although he didn't have years of formal training as an actor, he really understands this character."

With Combs being touted as the star, anticipation is mounting for the television production of "A Raisin in the Sun." The three-hour movie recently screened (out of competition) at the Sundance Film Festival, becoming the first broadcast network film to be featured at the prestigious festival.

While he's still Diddy off-screen, Sean Combs and no one else was the driving force behind the project, according to director Kenny Leon.

"He wanted to finish our journey," Leon said. "Reaching 1,200 people a night wasn't the end. I think he saw we could reach millions in one night."

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