Harvey Guillén

Harvey Guillén on How Not Fitting in Let Him Create His Own Space

Harvey Guillén didn’t set out to be an icon for the Latine LGBTQ+ community when he started his career.

“I just wanted to do what I love and unfortunately, you know, this business was telling me that it wasn’t for me and it wasn’t a door open for me,” Guillén told Remezcla when he sat down to talk this Pride 2023. He just wanted a seat at the table. One where he could be afforded roles like the ones he has now in FX’s What We Do in the Shadows or in the upcoming DC film Blue BeetleAnd it took work that this Latina queer writer and interviewer appreciates more than Guillén will ever understand.

“I just wanted someone to let me in because the doors were shut and the windows were bolted,” Guillén explained. And knowing the Hollywood machine like it is, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. Because if you’re not thin, pretty, light-skinned, and straight, it’s hard to break into the business. But in a country where there are over 60 million Latine people and over 20 million LGBTQ+ adults, it’s important to push back on that “Hollywood ideal” and create spaces that reflect who we truly are as a community and people.

And just to be clear, pushing back on this ideal of who Guillén had to be wasn’t easy. He struggled, felt discouraged, and understood why many actors weren’t doing what he was doing. “I think actors shy away from the entertainment industry, especially Latino actors of size who may be queer, because that box or mold [you have to fit into] just gets even smaller.” So they start omitting themselves because they don’t want to “make a fool of themselves” or get embarrassed. And for Guillén, he said “fuck that.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 01: Harvey Guillén attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 01: Harvey Guillén attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
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Guillén compared acting to trying out outfits in a fitting room with Hollywood being the clothing store. Instead of him trying to fit himself into those cute jeans that are a size too small, or passing on something because as bigger people we’re constantly told that we can’t wear specific things because of our size, he tried it all on. “At the end of the day I said, “Fuck that!” I’m gonna try this shirt, I’m gonna try these pants on and see what they look like on.”

When it comes to his curves and the fact that he’s a plus-size man: he owned it. “I kept going into that store and putting on different outfits and saying this accentuates this curve, this accentuates your smile, this brings out your eyes.” He kept doing this for himself to prove that he was talented and enough in this body. That he was “sexy.” And that “you can be all of those things in one body” to the point where you end up going to the Met Gala looking like spring come to life in an outfit that embraces your feminity, queerness, and Latinidad.

Pushing boundaries, opening doors, and making space for himself is something that Guillén is unapologetic about because he didn’t have representation that was queer, Latine, and plus-size growing up. And if he can change that for one person, it’s all worthwhile and something he’s more than happy to continue pushing for. “If there’s a kid watching at home who’s Latino, who’s plus-size, who may be queer, he’s going to know he can do it. And my whole trajectory of my career now has become, if I can do it, you can do it.”

Harvey Guillén in What We Do in the Shadows
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Owning his space also made Guillén reflect a lot on how he used to dream all the time. He dreamed about being on TV, about seeing someone that looked like him on screen, and about doing something different than what was expected of him. And it’s something he’s grateful for and that he hopes others hold onto. “Sometimes our dreams need to be manifested because we can’t let go of them and we shouldn’t let go of them. And if it means that you daydream about it, it means that you have visions as to where you’re going” or what you want in this life.

So, envision it. “Envision yourself in these scenarios. Envision yourself on a set. Envision the director saying action. Envision yourself on a red carpet. Envision yourself in this amazing outfit going to the Oscars. You envision yourself, you manifest, you put it out into the universe, and the universe has nothing but a clear vision of what you want.” And in doing so you create mental space where your hopes are within the realm of possibility, which is often the first step in achieving your dreams.

That doesn’t mean that the universe is suddenly going to answer back and give you everything you want out of nowhere. It doesn’t work like that. Never has. Instead, Guillén implores that those who have dreams envision the kind of future they want and talk about it. “No one can see your vision unless you constantly put it out there,” Guillén said, “And sometimes people put their dreams on the back burner and they don’t talk about it even to themselves. They stop talking about it or they stop envisioning it because it’s not worth the pain of like, the potential of it not coming through or true.”

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 24: Harvey Guillén speaks onstage at FX's
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – JULY 24: Harvey Guillén speaks onstage at FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” panel during 2022 Comic-Con International: San Diego at San Diego Convention Center on July 24, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
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It’s this way of thinking that has helped Guillén get to where he is today. A today where he plays a vampire hunter/familiar named Guillermo over on What We Do in the Shadows who is badass, queer, plus-size, and entering its fifth season. A today where he’s making appearances at Comic-Con, walking red carpets, acting alongside Susan Sarandon in DC’s Blue Beetle, and doing things that this queer, plus-size, and Latina writer never thought she’d see on screen. And this is just the start of many victories that 10-year-old Harvey Guillén would’ve never seen coming.

“Little Harvey would be very happy to know that there’s a place for him in this world,” Guillén told Remezcla as we started to wrap up our interview. “But if there was someone who looked like me and talked like me and I felt an instant rapport with, you better believe that I would’ve had 20 times more ambition, if that’s even possible at that age because I was pretty ambitious.” That’s why it’s so important to dream, to hope, and to unapologetically create space for yourself while trying out all those things people told you you could never do or fit in.

It’s why Harvey Guillén does what he does. For the kid he was and for all the little Harvey’s out there right now.