Entertainment

WATCH: John Leguizamo Emotionally Discusses The Importance Of ‘Black Panther’ For The Latino Community

John Leguizamo is praising “Black Panther” a step toward undoing negative stereotypes for minorities in film.

When speaking about how minorities are typically portrayed negatively in film and TV, Leguizamo got emotional when discussing why a “Black Panther” is so important.

“This ‘Black Panther’ thing is so exciting for me,” Leguizamo said toward the end of his interview with Ricky Camilleri at Build Studio on Feb. 9. “The other day I was doing a Q&A for ‘Latin History for Morons’ and this mom said that her son said, ‘Look, black people can be superheroes too?’ Her son was like flabbergasted. If you see yourself represented positively, imagine what it does to the youth. It’s going to make me cry.”

The actor and activist also said that in order to show Latinos in film, we need to tell their stories — as many other Latino actors have recently said.

He said one of the main reasons he gets involved in roles that portray Latinos in a positive light is to stop “the negativity out there” that plagues Latino characters.

Playing positive role models “undoes the negative messaging that’s out there constantly. How do you project yourself into the future positively if you haven’t seen yourself positively represented,” Leguizamo said during the 30 minute interview.

Leguizamo used his interview time to address his desire to see a united political front among all minorities.

“Us black and Latin people we gotta stand up for ourselves but we cannot do it completely alone,” Leguizamo said when discussing the need for political unity. “We need the white liberal.”

Leguizamo — who said his one-man show “Latin History For Morons” will go on tour — said that his play has been so pivotal that some educators have asked for a syllabus of his play.

“How was all of this information kept from me and kept from Americans?” Leguizamo said as he recalls researching his play.

Leguizamo can next be seen in the mini-series “Waco.”

READ: John Leguizamo Steps Up His Resistance Against Trump And Considers Running For Office 

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There Is Going To Be A Remake Of Disney’s ‘Hercules’ And It Is Going To Have An All Black Cast

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There Is Going To Be A Remake Of Disney’s ‘Hercules’ And It Is Going To Have An All Black Cast

There’s a new live-action stage version of Disney’s 1997 animated film “Hercules” at the Public Theater in New York City — and Hercules is Black as hell

In 1997, San Francisco Gate’s Peter Sack described the film as, “The great old Greek is turned into a ’90s-style athlete who gets endorsements, sandals named after him and a chance to stand tall among nymphs and muses.”

Sound familiar to you? Lest we not forget this was the same era that Michael Jordan did Space Jam and Shaquille O’Neal did Kazaam. The original animated film took inspiration from major athletes of the time and thus, it inevitably heavily references Black and hood ’90s culture. If you watch it now the sneakers, the gospel music, the humor, it probably seems so obvious. 

One might wonder with all these references to the Black popular culture of the ’90s, why didn’t the creators just make Hercules Black? Well, they finally have.

The story of Hercules.  

While most of us were forced to read and re-read Hercules in secondary school, not everyone may know the story. Hercules is the son of the king and queen of the gods, Zeus and Hera. When a prophecy foretells that he will eventually defeat the god of the underworld, Hades, Hercules is kidnapped as an infant. Unable to kill him, Hades is able to take his immortality away but not his strength. The baby Hercules is raised by a mortal couple. At 18 he figures out his real origins and is determined to become a hero so that he can return to Mount Olympus with the gods.

Meet your new Hercules.

Hercules at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, through The Public Theater’s Public Works Program is based on the 1997 animated film, and has kept Alan Menken’s musical score. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he also created the music for Disney’s Aladdin. Jelani Alladin stars as the demi-god Hercules. Krysta Rodriguez plays his love interest Megara.

The difference between the stage musical and the film is that Disney has finally chosen to embrace their story’s Blackness. Rather than simply coding their narrative as one with allusions to Black culture, they’ve put that Blackness at the forefront and center. That’s what we call growth! Everybody loves Black culture, it’s time we start loving the people who make it. 

Danielle C. Belton of The Root describes the original as having flirted with African-American culture, while this new version embraces a multicultural cast. 

“While the film Hercules only flirted with African-American music and culture—the muses who were the “Greek chorus” throughout the film were patterned after classic, Motown-style Black ‘50s girl groups,” she writes. “This version of ancient Greece and the Greco-Roman gods features quite a few Black, Asian and Latinx people, including Jelani Alladin as the titular teenaged Hercules, and, of course—all five of the doo-wopping muses are…sistas with voices.”

How Hercules gave nods to Black culture. 

Hercules is something of a hood icon. It was the first time many kids probably saw Black women portrayed as the muses and Greek chorus. This gaggle of doo-wopping muses sang the funky, soulful Hercules theme. There were also pivotal aspects of hood culture, some of it is even social commentary. Hercules’s character is parallel to the superstar basketball players of the ’90s, their rabid fans, and endorsement deals. The creators, Ron Clements and John Musker, even referred to Hercules as the Michael Jordan of his time. 

In the movie, we see a young Hercules’ as he rises to fame for being a demi-God with some serious strength. When the hero-worship begins, he snags a sweet endorsement deal — but these aren’t Nike Jordans — they’re fresh to death Hercules sandals called Air-Hercs. When the villain Hades sees that one of his minions is rocking the Hercules sandals his response is simple and iconic: what are those?The phrase has now become a popular meme on Black Twitter going so far as being referenced in the “Black Panther” movieThe hero even has his own version of a Gatorade sponsorship, the drink is called “Herculade.”

A Latinx Megara embraces feminism.

Unlike other Disney women of the era, Megara was never waiting to be saved. She was sarcastic, witty, and pretty unimpressed with Hercules’ attempts to holler at her. Krysa Rodriguez’ Megara puts feminism at the forefront — again we see subtle codes made explicit. 

“In a new song, a pants-clad Meg imagines a world without men, envisioning it as a utopia where she could do as she pleases. A dopey, lovestruck Hercules, seeking to demonstrate his feminist credentials, replies clumsily, ‘My mom’s a woman,’” writes Adrienne Westenfeld for Esquire.

Diversity is always an improvement. We live in a multicultural world, there is never anything wrong with reflecting that in the stories we tell. After all, it’s the stories we tell that teach us who we are and who we will become. For Hercules that is learning the truth about his traumatic past to create a better future — for America, well, it’s no different.

You Can’t Argue That John Leguizamo Isn’t Doing The Work To Uplift The Latino Community Every Day

Entertainment

You Can’t Argue That John Leguizamo Isn’t Doing The Work To Uplift The Latino Community Every Day

johnleguizamo / Instagram

Among the Latino celebrities that have made their political ideals crystal clear, we can certainly count actor John Leguizamo, who for more than two decades has been a force to be reckoned with both in Hollywood and independent cinema. John Alberto Leguizamo was born in Bogota, Colombia, on July 22, 1964. He is also a US citizen. Leguizamo has acted in small indie films such as Summer of Sam, but also in high profile franchises including John Wick and Ice Age. Leguizamo is as mainstream as it gets while retaining a humble personality. He has said: “I see the new Latin artist as a pioneer, opening up doors for others to follow.” He is proud of his language and his people. 

Leguizamo has worked with the likes of legendary filmmakers Spike Lee and George Romero while being unapologetic about his clear disdain for those in politics that incite division and perpetuate injustice. Here are some key moments of Leguizamo’s political activism and the never-ending fight for Latino rights. 

When he wrote an incendiary op-ed for The New York Times in 2016, right before the election.

Credit: Screenshot. The New York Times.

It was fantastic, and it was titled “Too Bad You’re Latin.” It was a real call to action. “We need a Latino Spring in this country,” he wrote. “We need to demand power and equal opportunity”. Of course, he aimed his guns at POTUS: “Donald J. Trump has done one good thing. He has galvanized a conflicted and diverse community. For years, activists and politicians have struggled to get Latinos to vote and show their power.”

When he narrated the HBO documentary The Latin Explosion: A New America.

Credit: The Latin Explosion: A New America / HBO

Latino culture in the United States has gone mainstream, and popular culture outside of Spanish-speaking circles is dictated by what celebrities such as Shakira, Sofía Vergara, and Ricky Martin do. Leguizamo celebrates the many accomplishments of Latinos in the entertainment industry by narrating this documentary feature. 

When he boycotted Saturday Night Live over a Donald Trump hosting gig.

Credit: john-leguizamo-donald-trump-yahoo. Digital image. Screener TV

In 2015, after Trump initially enraged the Latino community describing Mexican migrants as “rapists”, Leguizamo collected signatures opposing the then candidate’s appearance in the show. He said: “What he says doesn’t even fall into the category of (politically correct). It is hate mongering. I hope what I do in my work is not denigrating or belittling. I mean, I’m all for freedom of speech, don’t get me wrong. I believe in freedom of speech. This is different. If he had said those things about any other ethnic group, he would not be on SNL.” Preach, Johnny!

When he played Raymond Santana Sr., a proud father in When They See Us.

Credit: When They See Us / Netflix 

Leguizamo portrays the father of one of the Exonerated 5 with aplomb, and with Latino sass and pride. Leguizamo embodies any Latino father who believes in his kid while also acknowledging that racial politics are not always in favor of minorities. We love the rage, vulnerability, and love that Leguizamo is able to infuse his character with. 

When he decided to do his awesome Netflix special Latin History for Morons.

Credit: Latin History for Morons / Netflix

Leguizamo released an amazing Netflix special in which he basically unpacks the history of Latin America and Latinos in the United States in a brutal, yet humorous way. He talks about the savage Spanish rule in the continent, migration and the importance of preserving Spanish. The special is based, of course, on Leguizamo’s one-man Broadway show. Wanna see him? Visit  https://latinhistorybroadway.com/ for dates and tickets! Billboard raves about his show: “Latin History for Morons couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It feels like the perfect complement to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. And it provides a security blanket for people of color in knowing their place and value in a world that’s constantly telling them they don’t matter.” You had us at “morons”. 

He supports Latino politicians to bring our community to power.

Credit: Instagram. @johnleguizamo

The 2020 election will be defined by the variety of voices among the Democratic presidential hopefuls, regardless of whether Donald Trump gets reelected or not. Leguizamo stands by his ideas and supports candidates like Julian Castro, a proud Latino!

He puts his money where his mouth is, supporting Latino talent.

Credit: Instagram. @johnleguizamo

Leguizamo owns NGL Collective, a media company that produces content for the Latino market. Their philosophy: is based on being a “company forged from a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit that today is a leading digital media and entertainment company super-serving the US Latinx marketplace”. Not many seasoned Hollywood actors would actually put manos a la obra, but Leguizamo is not just any celebrity. He says: “I like helping people achieve their dreams just like people helped me.”

He always speaks out against hate.

Credit: Instagram. @johnleguizamo

On his Instagram account, where he is very active by the way, he often shares heartbreaking stories of racial abuse against Latinos. For example, this terrible act of violence against a mother who was physically abused while picking up her son from school. 

Leguizamo has said basta to the way that authorities are treating kids at the border.

Credit: Instagram. @johnleguizamo

Leguizamo has been one of the most fierce critics of the zero tolerance position of the Trump administration. As a true connoisseur of US history, Leguizamo often points to the fact that this country was built on the shoulders of immigrants who arrived from all over the world seeking to build a better life. Leguizamo is also often attending marches and raising funds for just causes. He once said: “When you feel the world is against you or you give up hope, you look at your heroes and say, they were able to do it. They had hard times and a lot of opposition but they got through it. Then you feel, I can do it too”. We wonder how many young Latinos look up to him; we are guessing un chingo

He spreads his gospel of truth.

Credit: Instagram. @johnleguizamo

Amen to this great message on his Insta, where he encapsulates his believes. LGBTQ rights, immigration rights, women’s rights, Black lives mater, we should save the planet and treat each other kindly. If we all lived by these principles otro gallo nos cantaria and the world would be a much better place. Se vale soñar

We’ve all wished that some of his jokes were actually facts.

Credit: Instagram. @johnleguizamo

If 20 years ago someone had said that the host of a reality show in which the premise was to fire people and basically humiliate them for the sake of ratings would be sitting in the Oval Office, we would have laughed that suggestion off as pure silliness, right? And yet… So this suggestion by Leguizamo that he could run in 2020 is not totally nuts, is it?  By the way: did you see the awesome Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo liked this post? What about she runs for vice president?

READ: ‘To Wong Foo’ Is An Undeniable Gay Cult Classic And John Leguizamo’s Role As A Drag Queen Is Still One Of The Best Performances