PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with John Leguizamo

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with John Leguizamo Writer-performer John Leguizamo has made a name for himself in film by playing everything from a Virgin Mary-gun toting Tybalt in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" to drag queen Miss Chi-Chi Rodriguez in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" to the flatulent fat Clown in "Spawn." However, the Colombian-born chameleon first made waves on stage with his award-winning one-man shows Mambo Mouth (Obie and Outer Critics Circle Award) and Spic-O Rama (Drama Desk Award). His Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography garnered him a Tony nomination. All three efforts won CableACE Awards after airing on HBO. During a final rehearsal with director Peter Askin (Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama) for his fourth and final one-man work, Sexaholix... a love story, the New York-bred actor took some time to talk to Playbill On-Line about Latinos, Lily Tomlin, touring, film and fatherhood. The show begins its limited run at Broadway's Royale Theatre Oct. 9, officially opening Nov. 4.

Writer-performer John Leguizamo has made a name for himself in film by playing everything from a Virgin Mary-gun toting Tybalt in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" to drag queen Miss Chi-Chi Rodriguez in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" to the flatulent fat Clown in "Spawn." However, the Colombian-born chameleon first made waves on stage with his award-winning one-man shows Mambo Mouth (Obie and Outer Critics Circle Award) and Spic-O Rama (Drama Desk Award). His Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography garnered him a Tony nomination. All three efforts won CableACE Awards after airing on HBO. During a final rehearsal with director Peter Askin (Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama) for his fourth and final one-man work, Sexaholix... a love story, the New York-bred actor took some time to talk to Playbill On-Line about Latinos, Lily Tomlin, touring, film and fatherhood. The show begins its limited run at Broadway's Royale Theatre Oct. 9, officially opening Nov. 4.

Playbill On-Line: Your first one-man show Mambo Mouth had eight characters, Spic-O-Rama and Freak had successively more. How many Sexaholix can we expect?
John Leguizamo: It's about 30 characters that I'm doing about relationships. This one's totally about relationships: dating, trying to "get some," breaking up, break-up sex, make-up sex, marriage, divorce.

PBOL: Why the title, Sexaholix?
JL: Because us guys and anybody under 19 is a "sexaholic"; that's all you think about, it's all you want, it's all you care about. And then, you eventually have to graduate and become a "love-aholic" at some point.

PBOL: Is this the same show you performed on tour this summer?
JL: I did the tour; we called the show John Leguizamo Live. And then I changed it completely for Broadway. It's a little darker, hopefully a lot funnier, if that's possible. We did 24 cities—Fresno, Bakersfield, Chicago, Miami, L.A., San Francisco, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, [etc.]— and just tested it out there and it was amazing. The audiences were incredibly responsive. We were doing 3,000-seat venues and they were screaming. I didn't know there were that many Latin people across America. In Seattle, for that one night, there weren't any Latin people in the streets cause they were all in the theatre. I never toured like that before, I did Freak in Chicago and San Francisco and that's the most I had ever done. And Spic-O Rama I did in just Chicago, but this is the first time that I went to that many cities and I loved it. I wish I had done it since the beginning because it was really thrilling.

PBOL: Did the show change from venue to venue?
JL: It was cut down. It started at like 60, 70 pages and we were down to 40 by the end of [the tour in] L.A. PBOL: Has it changed since?
JL: (Laughs) Yes, so now it's up to 54, 56 pages again. The third act is a little darker and deeper with the relationship of my soulmate. The end of act one is a lot funnier than it used to be and a lot more meaningful. So, I'm really excited about that. And there's a lot of cuts and a lot of new funny jokes and little more "moments" that we found.

PBOL: This will be the fourth one-man you've written. Do you have another one in you?
JL: I think that's it. They're fun and I love them but I want to leave at the top of my game.

PBOL: Are you considering writing or performing in a play with a full cast?
JL: I would, but I wouldn't write it. I'm not built that way. My chemistry doesn't work that way, but I'd love to be in a regular play. I've been in a couple of regular plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream with F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens and Elizabeth McGovern. Then I did La Puta Vida with John Turturro [at the New York Shakespeare Festival]. Writing a real play, I couldn't even imagine that.

PBOL: Who would you say has influenced you?
JL: Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters. I feel those are my biggest influences.

PBOL: You have credited Tomlin's work in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe as being a major factor in your one man ventures.
JL: And Whoopi's. Both of them were so beautiful. They had such beauty to what they were doing. It was so poetic and so hilarious and so inventive and daring because most people were just doing stand-up [comedy] and sometimes stand-up doesn't go to the other level.

PBOL: Since you're last one-man work Freak, you have had two children. Has that changed your outlook on your work?
JL: It's totally changed me as an artist because now I have to be really specific because I have less time to work. So, I have to really make choices that are important. I can only work on stuff that I really feel incredibly passionate about and everything else falls to the wayside.

PBOL: Have you incorporated them into this show?
JL: Yep. I reenact their births, both their births and little moments from their lives. Cause you know, when they learn to talk, it's so hard to teach them how to shut up again.

PBOL: Turning to your work in film, it seems you have picked projects that are very diverse. Was that intentional?
JL: It was what I did on purpose before, but I don't think I'm going to be doing that anymore. But it was totally my agenda was to be as different [as possible], with wildly varied parts. I wanted everything to be just an incredible challenge. And then I got [so] tired of it that now I just want to play myself and enjoy that for the rest of my life.

PBOL: You worked with Baz Luhrmann on both "Romeo + Juliet" and recently in "Moulin Rogue." Has he given you a call about his upcoming stagework La Boheme?
JL: No. He hasn't. I guess I didn't pass muster with the singing.

— by Ernio Hernandez