John Leguizamo Loves the Term Latinx! The Latin History for Morons Creator Wants to “Influence a Generation”
John Leguizamo admits he is often the student in his own home. The creator and star of the Netflix-via-Broadway one-man comedy show Latin History for Morons says his own children inspired him to write this hilarious — yet enlightening — historical parody. “What I tried to do was educate my kids, and by trying to educate them about the Latin contributions to the United States, I was the one that was empowered. And I was the one whose self-esteem was recuperated,“ the Colombian actor tells CHICA.
Schooling audiences, through humor, about the contributions of his community is fulfilling, he says. “Doing research and finding out that a lot of our contributions are not in textbooks, are not in movies, are not in television and yet we are really the jump-starters of America. We are the second oldest ethnic group after Native Americans! In the American Revolution, we had all kinds of officer, and Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Native-Americans fought alongside each other to free the United States from the British; 500,000 of us sacrificed our lives in World World II, in huge numbers to help build this country. That's what Latin History for Morons is, a celebration of all our contributions to the making of America and to the world.“
Leguizamo confesses he can't get enough of the term ‘Latinx'. “I love it, I think it's about time. I think it gets rid of the machismo that it not natural to our language, but got used by our language to promote male dominance,” the Colombian actor tells CHICA. “I love now that it's Latinx, it's all-inclusive and I love that.”
Did he change the script of his show — created before the 2016 elections — to reflect the challenges faced by Latinos in the Trump era? “The show has always had a sociopolitical tone, and I continue to touch on a lot of subjects. I don't want to dwell on POTUS, but I definitely tackle a lot of issues,” he says. “I'm outspoken on social media, and I hope I'm influencing a whole generation.”
Leguizamo says humor has been his salvation: “Humor has always helped me, it's what got me through my teenage years and helped me to get through the Hollywoodness of it all, humor is what opened doors when there was very little Latin content out there. Comedy is the best tool to smuggle information and smuggle content that can educate and uplift.”
Being a dad to two college students fills him with inspiration, he says. “My family gives me the greatest joy and my kid are doing so well. My daughter is on the Dean's List. My son is a track star and he was captain of the soccer team. That's what gives me the biggest joy. The teen years are a little rough, but now that they are 18 and 19, it's a much better time,” he admits with a laugh. “It's a much better time that they've come to own themselves.”
Being a father has been the greatest life lesson. “Having kids is a game changer. You have to up your game, you have to know your philosophies, your moral codes, you got to be a life coach. My kids have done that for me. They took me to the next level of my life,” he admits. “I just directed my first movie and being able to be a good father allows me to be a paternal figure in movies.”
Leguizamo makes his directorial debut with the film Critical Thinking, a true story of “five Latin black kids, from the ghetto in Miami who became U.S. chess champions.” He also stars with Danny DeVito in the film Harry Haft, out next year, where he plays a boxing coach to a Holocaust survivor.
In Latin History for Morons, he goes from talking about the Mayans to addressing “the Pitbull effect” in modern times. In fact, the Cuban-American rapper visited him backstage after watching the comedy show.
The actor, who was born in Bogotá but grew up in Jackson Heights, adds that being bicultural is a blessing. “You got two worlds to choose from, you have double the resources. I feel lucky that I have double the opportunities in so many ways, not just in work but also in ideas and philosophies. There is so much richness in Latin culture and in the Spanish language.”
The 54-year-old says his childhood memories from Colombia always bring a smile to his face. “I had a very fun family, and we used to all sit around and tell jokes and just laugh. It was an analog era, we weren't on the phone, so we'd sit around and just tell jokes and stories,” he says. “It was some of the best memories I have ever had.”