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Actor, comedian, and icon John Leguizamo has been a prominent figure in the entertainment industry for over 30 years. Leguizamo is best known for his roles in movies such as Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet, Encanto and Carlito’s Way. But he’s also Broadway vet and critical darling. Starring in shows like Mambo Mouth, Freak, Latin History for Morons. This year with the short series “Leguizamo Does America”, he’s taking his talents to television

Leguizamo along with Show Runner Carolina Saavedra and Director Ben DeJesus dropped by the SXSW Festival to chat with Tom Llamas. Where the trio talked all things “Leguizamo Does America”, why Latinx needs to speak up and speak out against the Hollywood machine and beyond!

The Show

John Leguizamo has always been an advocate for Latino representation in Hollywood. So, it comes as no surprise that his latest project centers on the exploration of Latinx identity and talent in modern-day America.  The six-episode series premieres April 16th on MSNBC and is hosted by the Emmy Award-winning actor himself.

In each episode, Leguizamo takes viewers on a journey across the United States. From California, to Illinois, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Leguizamo explores the history of Latinos and their impact on society today. Visiting landmarks that honor Latinx heroes to interviewing Latino celebrities about their careers. Leguizamo, DeJesus and Saavedra promise this will not be some celebrity travel show, but something authentic and real.

During the SXSW panel Leguizamo said “I’ve done enough TV shows and movies where the sanitizing by committee, the white washing just starts to happen, and the show becomes nothing of what you want it to be…but [here] MSNBC gave us the freedom to be as raw as we want to be.”

“Latinos are the oldest and largest ethnic group and there has never been an English language television show about our culture…This show is about Latino exceptionalism…showing that being Latino is a superpower.”

The Cause

Aside from being an artist. Leguizamo has long been an activist. His cause?  Greater representation for Latinos and people of color in front and behind the camera. From producing documentaries about Latino issues to actively participating in campaigns that bring awareness to important causes, John Leguizamo is doing his part to increase diversity within Hollywood both onscreen and offscreen. He is co-founder of NGL Studios, a digital company focused on creating content for the Latinx audiences, which responsible for holding events events such as Hispanicize

Mr. Leguizamo also has no problem speaking truth to power. Case in point, penning an Open Letter to Hollywood in the LA Times in November of 2022 where he called out Hollywood execs on their less the diverse and inclusive practices.

Leguizamo recounted such experiences at the SXWS panel sharing a conversation with an unnamed executive when he pitched him on a Latino focused project. According to Leguizamo the exec told him “We don’t need to go after the Latin audience because we already get their money”. 

Leguizamo shared that “now execs are more savvy, they will think it, but not say it. There are great things being done for the optics in the business. We are going after people of color, we want diversity. But what projects are being greenlighted…But what projects are being greenlighted…But what projects are being greenlighted.”

So, what can be done? At the beginning of the panel moderator Tom Llamas called “Leguizamo Does America” a master class on Latino history and culture that leaves you feeling empowered.

Perhaps the first step is tuning in to “Leguizamo Does America” to see what Latino excellence for some of the education and empowerment!

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