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John Leguizamo on the Limited Roles for Latino Actors

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“Every audition I would go to, you know, was either for a drug dealer, a murderer, or a janitor. It’d be me, Benicio del Toro, Luis Guzmán, Benjamin Bratt,” says an exasperated John Leguizamo in this film excerpt. The actor and comedian, acclaimed for his one-man shows, was born in Colombia in 1964, the last year of the boomer generation (1946-1964), and moved to New York City with his family at the age of four.

“If there is a really great Latin role, it didn’t go to us,” Leguizamo explains. “It went to, you know, Al Pacino or De Niro. I just knew that Latin people were really funny. My family was really funny to me. And we had incredible stories to tell. Where is that on TV? Where is that in movies? Where is that in plays?”

Among Leguizamo’s early films are the Vietnam drama Casualities of War (1989); Hangin’ with the Homeboys (1991); and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), in which he starred with Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes.

The actor is best known for the comedic and autobiographical one-man shows he has written and starred in, including Mambo Mouth (1991), Spic-O-Rama (1992), Freak (1998), Sexaholix…a Love Story (2001), and most recently, Ghetto Klown, which premiered on Broadway in 2011.

American Masters: The Boomer List, premiering nationwide Tuesday, September 23, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), tells the story of this influential generation through the lives of 19 iconic boomers—one born each year of the baby boom.


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