On his sixth interview of the day to promote a twenty-city U.S. tour he's nearly halfway into, John Leguizamo recalls again his first paying acting gig: "I was like nineteen years old. I looked like such a punk, being the villain of the episode, pretty ridiculous." The show? Miami Vice.
Ridiculous or not, Leguizamo, whose parents emigrated from Colombia to New York when he was three years old, went on to invade stand-up comedy, live theater, and Hollywood, leaving countless memorable characters in his wake -- notably the pantheon of Latin identities populating his hit one-man shows Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, and Freak, as well as Miss Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar; the flatulent evil clown in Spawn; gangster Benny Blanco in Carlito's Way; horny hairdresser Vinny in Summer of Sam; and the diminutive painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge.
Currently the 37-year-old actor, producer, comedian, and writer is starring in his first traveling production, John Leguizamo Live. "I've been dying to do a piece about relationships," he says. Leguizamo-style relationships include "breaking up, breakup sex, and all the good stuff, the shame, the dirt, the filth...." A father of two, whose own parents divorced when he was a teen, Leguizamo describes the piece as "a crazy marriage of theater and performance art and stand-up" that encompasses "the beginning of time when Latin man was born, from the loser Leguizamo conquistadors who came over and raped my Incan great-grandmother and gave her syphilis" all the way down to "all my previous relationships, my divorce, and then finally finding perfect love and having kids."
So would the actor, who began his career playing a delinquent, love to perform for real-life perps? "The prison I'm afraid of, 'cause I did Wong Foo too well, so you know they got my poster up there, waitin' for me to make a mistake with the law, so I can be Lola, the prison bitch."