He’s conquered the entertainment world and captured the hearts of millions through his work in television and films, as well as Broadway. And, now John Leguizamo is speaking out his longtime career.
As part of MTV’s Pioneers Speaker Series, the 47-year-old Colombian actor/comedian spoke with MTV News about his successful 27-year career, including his efforts to push boundaries, speak his mind and never take no for an answer.
Leguizamo opened up about one of his most popular roles as Chi-Chi in the cult classic To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. It’s a gender-bending role that he committed to 100-percent.
“I just went all out. I wanted awards and sh–, so I wasn’t playing,” he joked about his motivations for taking on the character. “I was going to take no prisoners. I was on a vegetarian no-protein [diet], so all my muscles would disappear. I stopped training; I would just run like crazy.”
But he also did his research to perfect his role as a, to quote the film, “little Latin boy in drag.”
“We went to all the drag queen clubs, like Escuelita, which used to exist here [in New York City], with all the Latin drag queens, and we had a godmother drag queen who would put us through the paces every day,” recalled Leguizamo of his dramatic transformation with co-stars Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes. “We worked every day for hours and hours every
day until we could get it perfectly drag queen-like.”
In addition, Leguizamo opened up about being Latino in Hollywood and how it affected his decisions.
“You’ve got to be thoughtful about your career. When you’re a minority — and I don’t really even like that word anymore because we’re not as minority as we used to be — you have to think
about what you’re saying and what you’re leaving behind. When I was a little kid, we didn’t see [ourselves] on TV or anywhere. It was weird because you didn’t feel like you were a part of the American fiber,” he recalled. “Latin people, we have a 45 to 50 percent dropout rate in this country, and I understand that. It’s a tragedy and shouldn’t be happening, but you understand it. You don’t feel connected in that positive way that your people and you are going to make it, and ‘this is your chance and this is your opportunity,’ no, you feel like you’re not really a part of it.”
That’s why Leguizamo decided to just go for it when it came to pursuing his dreams… And, he recommends you do the same.
“You have to crash into the party even if you’re not invited,” he said, indicating that those who have dreams of “making it” have to carve out their own career paths. “I was going to be that
guy, I didn’t care I wasn’t invited.’I’m coming into the party, I’m going to be somebody and you can’t stop me.'”