John Leguizamo discussed colorism in Hollywood and how it had resulted in his deliberate choice to stay out of the sun for years in order to continue booking roles.
In a recent conversation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the 57-year-old actor revealed that he had chosen to stay out of the sun to continue being considered for roles as a light-skinned Latino actor.
Leguizamo admitted that he has long “benefitted from being light-skinned” in Hollywood and sparked the conversation of colorism issues within Hollywood and Latin culture.
“I stayed out of the sun so I could work,” he 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.”
The “Encanto” actor also commented on the 2021 Annenberg Inclusion Initiative which took a deep dive into the 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019 and found that only 7% of those films featured a lead/co-lead Hispanic/Latino star.
“Not only are we invisible, but when we are seen, it’s a negative portrayal,” the actor stated. “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,” he said firmly. “I just want what’s due to us.”
Leguizamo spoke to the Academy as part of its “Seen” interview series and revealed his intention to run for Governor of the Academy with the mission to better enforce change within the industry.
“You have to step up and make a change and change it from within,” he admitted. “I feel like if you’ve achieved a certain amount of success, it’s your duty to give back.”
John’s most recent project includes Disney’s newest animated musical “Encanto” and he will also reprise his role of Sid in “Ice Age: Adventures of Buck Wild” which will stream on Disney+ starting January 28. He will also star opposite Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult in Searchlight Pictures’ “The Menu.”