John Leguizamo revealed in a conversation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that he made a deliberate choice in his career to stay out of the sun in order to continue booking roles as a light-skinned Latino actor.
The actor said he has long “benefitted from being light-skinned” in Hollywood and addressed issues of colorism within Hollywood and within Latin culture.
“I stayed out of the sun so I could work,” Leguizamo said. “I definitely would not go in the sun for years. It was a conscious thing because I could work. And all the Latinos that made it so far, a lot of them were all light-skinned. What happened to all the Afro-Latinos and the majority of indigenous Latinos? They don’t get a shot, you know. So, there’s a lot of things we got to deal with in Hollywood, and we got to fix, and we got to speak out and we got to speak up.”
Leguizamo also reacted to last year’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which looked at the 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019 and found that only 7% of films from 2019 featured a lead/co-lead Hispanic/Latino actor.
“Not only are we invisible, but when we are seen, it’s a negative portrayal,” Leguizamo said. “Things are improving. I think COVID made us really look at ourselves in America. Black Lives Matter was a huge awakening for America, a reboot for America to look at themselves and see what’s going on. I think everybody’s trying to do the right thing and hire many more people of color. What I want to see, I want to see 20% of the roles in front of the camera and the crew. I’m not asking for extra. I just want what’s due to us.”
Leguizamo was speaking to the Academy as part of the organization’s “Seen” interview series. The actor revealed that he is going to run for Governor of the Academy in order to better enforce change in the industry.
“You have to step up and make a change and change it from within,” Leguizamo said. “I feel like if you’ve achieved a certain amount of success, it’s your duty to give back.”
Leguizamo most recently starred in Disney’s animated musical “Encanto.” He reprises his voice role of Sid in “Ice Age: Adventures of Buck Wild,” streaming Jan. 28 on Disney Plus, and also stars opposite Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult in Searchlight Pictures’ upcoming black comedy “The Menu.”