“It’s hard being a ghetto nerd,” the writer-performer muses in the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast. “You’re not cool enough for the cool kids, and you’re not nerdy enough for the white nerdy kids.” But it’s all worked out. “Now I’m badass.”
In the episode, Leguizamo recounts the real-life inspiration for “Latin History,” which recounts how he tried to help his son deal with bullies who were picking on him for his heritage. “It compelled me to really start doing research about my Latin history, mostly to empower my son so he would have facts and figures and words to tell people to shut up,” Leguizamo recalls. “It reminded me in my youth, too, of how I got bullied by that. You’re playing a game of stoop ball of off-the-wall or Johnny-ride-a-pony and you beat somebody, and all of a sudden you’re a spic.”
Leguizamo goes on to recount some memorable moments in his career, including his 1987 Shakespeare in the Park gig playing Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “I was god-awful,” he laughs. “I was so method, I was a nightmare. I was playing practical jokes on everybody. I was putting itching powder in their underwear.”
He also considers the impact political opinions can have on an artist’s career, remembering what happened when he started speaking out publicly about causes that are important to him. “I saw my numbers drop,” he says of his social media followers. “When you cease to be an entertainer, and you become an artist and you’re political, it has consequences.”
He makes time, too, to share his thoughts about the current wave of sexual harassment and abuse scandals. “I think it’s a correction,” he says. “It’s a moral correction against what’s happening in our administration and whats happened in the election, and what Trump got away with.”
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