John Leguizamo Admits to Staying Out of the Sun to Land Roles
By Mona Khalifeh
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John Leguizamo has been entertaining audiences since the '80s, but breaking into the industry wasn't so easy for the Colombian-born actor.
In a new interview for the Academy Awards' Seen series, Leguizamo spoke about trying to make it as a Latino actor in Hollywood and the lengths he went to in order to land roles.
"I stayed out of the sun so I could work," the Encanto star admitted, telling the Academy that he was fully aware that he "benefited from being light-skinned" in the industry.
"I definitely would not go in the sun for years. It was a conscious thing because I could work. And all the Latinos that made it so far, a lot of them were all light-skinned. What happened to all the Afro-Latinos and the majority of indigenous Latinos? They don't get a shot, you know," he continued. "So, there's a lot of things we got to deal with in Hollywood, and we got to fix, and we got to speak out and we got to speak up."
The roadblocks Leguizamo encountered forced him to take a look at the roles available to Latinx actors in the industry and why many portrayals of Latinos onscreen are negative.
"How do you create a Latin star in America when the roles are one-dimensional and not worthy of awards?" Leguizamo questioned. "The ugly question is, why are Latin people not succeeding? What's the ugly question? Are we not smart enough? Not talented enough? Not good-looking enough? Not hardworking enough? No, none of those stereotypes and racist ideas because nobody tries harder with less access."
"So not only are we invisible, but when we are seen, it's a negative portrayal," he continued. "Things are improving. I think COVID made us really look at ourselves in America. Black Lives Matter was a huge awakening for America, a reboot for America to look at themselves and see what's going on. I think everybody's trying to do the right thing and hire many more people of color. What I want to see, I want to see 20 percent of the roles in front of the camera and the crew. I'm not asking for extra. I just want what's due to us."
That awakening was not only one for America, but Lequizamo too, who decided to do more research on the Latinx community in an effort to help his son, Lucas, from being bullied.
"It's like we didn't exist," he shared. "So I started doing that research and learning so much. And the crazy thing was I was the one that was healing. I was the one that was being empowered. And then I realized, 'Oh my god, I can do this for the 70 million Latinos in America. I can do this maybe for the 500 million speakers in the world through this work.'"
Another way Leguizamo plans to enact change, is by running for governor of the Academy and bringing the representation many believe has been missing from one of Hollywood's oldest institutions.
"You have to step up and make a change and change it from within," Leguizamo expressed. "I feel like if you've achieved a certain amount of success, it's your duty to give back."
By talking about what it took for him to achieve the level of success he's had in the industry, Leguizamo hopes that no other kid, no matter their background, will have to go through what he went through.
"I don't want any kid to go through what I went through. I don't want any Latin kid to go through what I went through. I don't want any white kid, Black kid, Asian kid [to go through what I went through]," he stressed.