Give actor and comedian John Leguizamo an open platform to speak on the things he is most passionate about and there’s zero chance he’s going to hold anything back.
On Tuesday (November 1), the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece written by Leguizamo where he wrote candidly about the state of Latine representation in Hollywood and the fact that “if you look Latino, or if you have a Latino last name, the odds are against you.” It all starts with studios taking a proactive approach in making changes to the way they think about producing successful films.
“If you take a big white movie and make it a Latin movie, it’s a hit,” he said. “Take the new Top Gun and recast it with all Latin people, that’s a hit. Take a show like Succession and make all the characters Latin, that’s a hit. The remedies are there, but you have to be willing to put us on. As it stands right now, if your name is Garcia, Perez or Hernandez, and if you look Latino, you won’t get the same shot.”
It’s an opportunity, Leguizamo said, that is rarely presented to Latine talent. He points to specific examples throughout cinematic history where white people were cast to play Latines like Marlon Brando in Viva Zapata!, Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil, and Al Pacino in Scarface.
“Even white Latinos are still stigmatized by their names and their culture,” he said. “Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada still goes by Oscar Isaac. And while our actors can’t be cast, our stories are still co-opted.”
Leguizamo also made it a point when talking about white actors playing Latine characters to include Spanish actors. He mentioned two: Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem. “Spaniards are not Latinos,” he said. “Spaniards are white Europeans.”
Leguizamo said he’s been preaching the same sermon his entire career, but believes little movement has been made because there is an infinitesimal number of Latine studio heads and entertainment executives making the big decisions.
“We need a better pipeline for Latinos in movies, TV shows and plays,” he said. “We need a system for our stories and our projects. We need executives to provide the greenlight.”