John Leguizamo, actor, producer, comedian, screenwriter and playwright, has called Hollywood out on his practice of colorism.
In an interview for Nick Barili’s new series Seenmade in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Leguizamo said:
“There is colorism in Latin culture that we need to correct, but there is also colorism in Hollywood.”
The actor, who stands up for people of color and helps them get deserved roles and work in the entertainment industry, told Barili:
“You have to step up and make a change and change it from within.”
Leguizamo also noted:
“I feel like if you’ve achieved some success, it’s your duty to give back.”
As the interview progressed, Leguizamo delved into the persistent racism and colorism in Hollywood.
John Leguizamo’s Ethnicity and His Experience With Colorism in Hollywood
John Leguizamo was born to Alberto and Luz Leguizamo in Bogotá, Colombia. His father, Alberto, once claimed that the actor was Colombian and not Puerto Rican. According to John, his maternal grandfather was Lebanese, while his paternal grandfather was of Puerto Rican and Italian descent. Leguizamo also presented himself as being of Native American and mestizo descent.
The Hispanic actor, who called himself a “Puerto Rican-Colombian homeboy from Queens” in his 2006 autobiography, said he benefited from being a fair-skinned Latino. John Leguizamo opened up about how he went out of his way to keep his skin clear as well as Hollywood’s discrimination against Afro-Latinx and native Latinx people. He told Nick Barilli:
“I stayed out of the sun so I could work. I definitely wouldn’t go out in the sun. For years I was so pasty I could work. And all the Latinos who have made it so far, a lot of ‘between them were all light-skinned. What happened to all the Afro-Latinos and the majority of the native Latinos? They’re not vaccinated, you know. So there’s a lot of things we have to keep busy in Hollywood, and we have to fix them, and we have to talk and we have to talk.”
Leguizamo, who often speaks about Latin exclusion in the entertainment industry, commented that the auditions he went to in his early days were “always for a drug dealer, a murderer, a killer, your gardener or someone who takes care of your house”. and how Hollywood disadvantages people of color. He said:
“Not only are we invisible, but when we are seen, it is a negative representation.”
When asked if he thinks things have changed, John Leguizamo explained:
“Things are looking up. I think COVID has really made us look at ourselves in America. Black Lives Matter has been a huge wake up call for America, a reboot for America to look at itself and see what’s going on. I think everyone is trying to do the right thing and hire a lot more people of color. What I want to see, I want to see 20% of roles on camera and on crew.”
He also added:
“I’m not asking for extra. I just want what’s due to us.”
At one point in the interview, John Leguizamo recalled how he was kicked out of a movie he was working on for a week as the director cast a Latin actress and…
“…couldn’t have two Latin people in the movie, because then it would become a Latin movie.”
He also spoke of a producer who told him:
“Too bad John you’re Puerto Rican, because you’re so talented. Otherwise, you’d be so much further along.
Leguizamo, who has lost a number of followers on social media platforms for speaking out about the existence of racism in Hollywood, explained that speaking out has a price:
“I got a lot of hateful tweets like, ‘Go back to your country. Return to Mexico. I’m not Mexican but I would gladly go back to Mexico because it’s a great country. When I post political stuff on my Facebook, they say, “John was so funny before, but now you’re boring.” … Being vocal comes at a cost.”
Asked what he still had to do, John Leguizamo concluded:
“Oh, so much. I would love to help the next generation do their job, do it, produce it. There’s so much great talent out there. I want to be able to help them. I want to be that studio head that gets their greenlit hardware and product.”
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Leguizamo, who recently starred in Disney’s animated musical Encantoagain voiced the role of Sid in Ice Age: The Adventures of Buck Wild (airing Jan. 28 on Disney Plus), and will star in Searchlight Pictures’ upcoming dark comedy The menu alongside Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult.