Apr 15, 2024 - Culture

John Leguizamo talks Latino identity during Denver stop for his show

A man in a black jacket and a maroon shirt walks, while a colorful skull mural is painted behind him during a very sunny day.

John Leguizamo films a segment during a stop at Cultura Chocolate in Denver's Westwood neighborhood. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Actor and comedian John Leguizamo's efforts to advocate for Latinos in Hollywood are rooted in a personal but relatable experience: rejection.

The big picture: He told us his ideas for shows and movies were often ignored — saying it was due to him being a Latino focusing on cultural topics — and it got so bad, he started questioning his abilities.

  • "I thought maybe I couldn't write — maybe my pitches suck," Leguizamo said in a recent interview. Meanwhile, he was still earning Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy and Tony Award nominations (he would win the latter two.)

Driving the news: The actor, known for his roles in movies like "Ice Age" and "John Wick," visited Denver last week to film an episode for a show he says took six years to get on the air, "Leguizamo Does America."

  • He chose the Mile High City after discovering its Latino culture during multiple previous comedy tour stops.

State of play: Now in its second season, the show, co-produced by MSNBC Films and NBC News Studios, visits cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles to explore culture and identity, and to showcase what he calls "Latin excellence."

  • It's also given him an opportunity to provide jobs: His production staff includes people with Chilean, Colombian, Mexican and Puerto Rican backgrounds.

Zoom in: Leguizamo stopped by Cultura Chocolate in Westwood — home to one of Denver's largest Latino populations — to make chocolate and atole, a traditional corn-based Mexican drink, with owner Damaris Ronkanen.

  • It's one of several Denver-area locations he visited while in town (other sites are being kept under wraps for now.)

Fun fact: The actor tells us he likes "Latinx" when referring to people with Latin American heritage, though he's aware of its controversy.

What they're saying: "I like 'Latinx' because it sounds like a superpower," Leguizamo tells us.

  • "The fact that we're finally calling ourselves something and demanding to be seen is the more important thing of it all," he added.

What we're watching: Release dates for the new season have not been announced, but a publicist for MSNBC tells us six cities will be featured.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information about show production.

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