ohn Leguizamo is not an overnight sensation. Not
even one of those recent Latin breakthrough sensations.
What he is, is an entertainer who dropped slackerville
at 17 to begin the trek towards becoming an actor.
At 37, he has since racked up awards and acting credits
ranging from such acclaimed roles as "Chi Chi Rodriguez"
in "To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar"
to his one-man hit Broadway show "Freak."
In October, "Leguizamo brings his current one-man
show "Sexaholix. A Love Story" back to his hometown of
New York City. In November, admirers of this multi-faceted performer
will find his most challenging work yet in "King of the Jungle",
with roles in "Point of Origin", "Empire", "ZigZag",
and "Spun" in 2002.
the book: what do you think of the recent
Latin emergence within entertainment?
leguizamo: it's exciting. There's this boom,
that's here to stay. You've got really talented people that have
always been around, but finally they're getting the recognition.
the book: do you think being Latino held you
back in Hollywood?
leguizamo: it wasn't always easy, it was a
lot of having to break down their little myopic view of what Latin
people are supposed to be.
the book: you have a lot of films coming out;
which one are you most proud of?
leguizamo: "King of the Jungle"
was amazing because it was so hard. I play a mentally-challenged
guy who's trying to find his father who rejected him. I talked to
the director, I said, "It's really hard to play a low-functioning
character, and if you just upped him a little higher in intelligence,
it's a little easier."
the book: how did you get into character for
leguizamo: I hung out with mentally-challenged
people, went to their houses and brought them to my house. At first
I was really depressed, but that was just me projecting my fears,
because they weren't depressed. They were just living their lives.
As complete a life as anybody can. They were so positive, so in
the moment and so themselves.
the book: "Latinos are better lovers."
You said it...
leguizamo: Because we love cunnilingus. I'm
being honest. I can tell from talking to my friends. I took a poll.
the book: what has been the one experience
that completely changed who you are?
leguizamo: I was working at KFC and failing
high school, my junior or senior year. Everyone was making plans
to go to college, and I realized, if I don't change now, I'm going
to be a loser for the rest of my life."
the book: did that push you in the direction
leguizamo: yeah. I started going for the acting,
and I tried to go to college. I had to go to the least competitive,
dumbest school in America to up my grades. And then I got into NYU.
the book: and this was the plan you hatched
at age 17.
leguizamo: yes, self-improvement kick to the
max. I was in therapy too, so that made a difference.
the book: have you been in therapy since?
leguizamo: no, I went from 17 to 21, twice
a week. It was intense.
the book: so you got it all out of your system.
leguizamo: most of it, I'm sure I could go
back for a tune-up.