John Leguizamo is appalled Latinos are so rarely seen on screen in America, even though they make up 20 percent of the population.
The actor released his directorial debut Critical Thinking, which features a largely Latin cast, earlier this month (September 2020) and now reveals he is devoted to fighting for change onscreen.
“We’re less than one percent of the stories told by Hollywood and streaming media and networks when we’re almost 20 percent of the population,” he tells People magazine. “I just feel like it’s such a damage to kids not to see themselves reflected back in positive ways.”
Leguizamo, who grew up in diverse Queens, New York, learned early on in his career that roles for Latinos are scarce.
“A lot of my white friends from college were going to five auditions a day, and I was going to one every few months – if I was lucky. And it was always for something horrible and degrading,” he adds. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, we went to the same school, studied with the same teachers. I had the same ability but not the same opportunity’.
After three decades in showbusiness, the Moulin Rouge! star used his frustrations to create his own work, starring in the acclaimed one-man shows Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, Freak, and Latin History for Morons. Each venture tackled stereotypes about his community.