PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Ghetto Klown Star John Leguizamo

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04 Oct 2011

John Leguizamo
John Leguizamo

Stage and screen star John Leguizamo, currently performing his latest one-man show Ghetto Klown at Los Angeles' Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire with random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Leguizamo's solo stage shows include Sexaholix, Mambo Mouth and Spic-O-Rama. He also appeared on Broadway in the revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo.

Among his many film credits are "The Summer of Sam," "Moulin Rouge," "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," "Carlito's Way," "Spawn" and "Romeo + Juliet."

TV work includes "Miami Vice," "ER," "My Name Is Earl" and "The Kill Point."



Full given name: John Leguizamo. Original name was Johnny. I was named after John Saxon. My mom thought he was sexy. Only dark movie star in the 60's.

Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but I was raised in Jackson Heights, the most multi-diverse spot in the world. Big ups to JH!
Zodiac Sign:Cancer. I'm very typical. Moody, senstive, gregarious, yet a loner. I love animals. Bob Hope was one, too.
What your parents did/do for a living:My mom did many things to make ends meet, from doll factory sweat shop to executive at USBC Bank. The American Dream.



Special skills: I can do accents, play basketball, I can whistle loud without using my fingers, I can bike in rush hour traffic, I speak Spanish and can butcher French, and I can order in Italian. Good with guns. I can compost. I can box.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Hockey and football. I suck. Ice melts in Latin America. I throw like a girl.
First Broadway show you ever saw: A Chorus Line. There was a Latin person, Priscilla Lopez, and she rocked my world. I saw her and her story, and I knew she was talking to me and only me. I knew she was a sign that I could make it.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? I would walk into Shubert Alley and touch one of the posters and fall back to the 1950s and catch Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Some of the best acting on stage or film or anywhere. Some of the best writing and directing. Although if I had seen it, I would have quit because no one can touch him.

Some favorite musicals: In the Heights
Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk
Some favorite plays: American Buffalo
Glengarry Glen Ross
Long Day's Journey into Night
Death of a Salesman
Signs of Intelligent Life
Stars of the past or present you would most love to perform with: Brando, Pacino, Lee J. Cobb, Uta Hagen
Your personal acting idols, living or dead: Richard Pryor: he brought the personal with so much skill, humor and pathos.
Spalding Gray: his writing and x-ray on himself was without equal.
Robert De Niro: nobody can become a character like him.
One performance - attended - that you will never forget: Seeing John Malkovich in True West was the most visceral performance. It left me changed forever.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Blues and boleros make me cry. Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Tito Rodriguez, La Lupe. They make me recall and let me feel pain, and it's okay. They're better for it cause they can sing about it.
MAC or PC? PC, still. Come on, scientists and large corporations use PCs!
Most played song on your iPod: Sade's new album
Most-visited websites: YouTube
Favorite Tweeter: Kanye West
Last book you read: "500 Nations." It's the Native American story, the real story... deep, very moving and inspiring.
Must-see TV shows: "Parenthood"
"Boardwalk Empire"
"Mad Men"
Last good movie you saw: "Buck" was inspiring. Shows you what you can do with no money but great concept and great storytelling.
Some films you consider classics: "Raging Bull"
"Mean Streets"
"Contempt"
"Band of Outsiders"
"Rodrigo D"
"Y tu mamá también"
Anything by Luis Buñuel
Performers you would drop everything to go see: Katt Williams, Chris Rock, Mark Anthony
Pop culture guilty pleasure: The Black Eyed Peas. They cannot make a song that isn't catchy.
Favorite cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin
Favorite sport/team/player: Basketball is my favorite. Amar'e rocks. The Knicks, of course.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: "Keep on Truckin'" by Eddie Kendricks
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When I performed in the East Village in a tiny performance art place called Home, and the crowd understood what I was trying to say and dug it. I knew this was my thing. I was testing out Mambo Mouth characters one by one.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Orzo still rocks for after show. Everyone is there. Neil Simon, Ben Brantley... it's a who's who of theatre. And the food ain't bad either!
Favorite liquid refreshment: Cold sake
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Meditation, vocals, physical stretches, running, push-ups and shadow boxing. Flip the bird and pound my heart, and now I'm ready to go!

Most challenging role you have ever played (stage or screen): Ghetto Klown. To get the humor and the depth of rage and outrage and to come back with a punchline has been mad challenging.

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: During American Buffalo we were being reviewed by Ben Brantley and the prop person forgets the pig iron. I have a huge monologue about a pig iron where I wield it like a weapon, but there is none.

So I grab an umbrella and try to do the speech about "the dangerous umbrella..." Brantley later wrote it would do the production better if John had learned his lines. Ha ha!

Some favorite TV/film gigs: "Summer of Sam, "Where God Left His Shoes" and "The Take."

Had a blast on these sets. I felt free and was entering a new stage in my work where I started playing characters closer to myself. I was exploring inwardly instead of just playing with accents and antics.