As a Puerto Rican filmmaker with a lifelong passion for theater and for my culture, I was always drawn to Raúl Juliá’s story and his unlikely rise to success on both stage and screen. For Latinos, Juliá broke many barriers as a so-called “outsider” in the acting world, which is especially relevant today and a main theme the film explores. At a time when there were few Latinos (and even fewer Puerto Ricans) appearing on stage and in films, he exploded onto the scene and carved a place for himself on the virtue of his natural talent and versatility, even in the face of racism and stereotyping.
I was also inspired by Juliá’s legacy as a humanitarian, which has continued to reverberate after his death. From his fierce belief in ending world hunger, to his vocal stance on environmental issues, to his thoughts on the need for unity in the face of prejudice and the search for the American dream regardless of background, Juliá used his celebrity power to give voice to the voiceless. And in many ways, his positions on pro-social and cultural causes were eerily prophetic to the current state of our country.
My previous experience directing and producing the PBS documentary films John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway for Great Performances and John Leguizamo: Tales From a Ghetto Klown motivated my own mission of telling the stories of inspiring Latinos whose stories are often overlooked.
As a director and producer who has spent over 15 years serving this audience, I feel a profound calling to continue highlighting the important contributions that Latinx people have made and are making to society. Raúl Juliá is a shining example, and it’s time for his story to be told.