In his new show Klass Klown, now at the Roberts Theatre, John Leguizamo depicts 25 characters in his two hour+ autobiographical show. He was in NY with his wife & kids for a tour break, but still had time for a phone interview.
Lew: Are you are more personal with Klass Klown than your other shows?
John: This one is more about the things you talk about with your manager and your publicist that people don’t ever know about. I’m taking on the system.
L: Is it hard going back on the road?
JL: I was afraid that if I left New York, it would be open Latin season on me. But I started touring and I really enjoyed it Especially young people have felt inspired with this show.
The thing I’m doing in this show that is different is that I’m a lot darker and more real. This one goes further. I’m also doing impersonations of DeNiro, Swayze, Pacino, which I haven’t done before. Sometimes three at once. I had two great performance mentors in my life Lily Tomlin and Spalding Gray. They were so inspiring to me, I took pieces of what they did and created this hybrid bioplay.
L: You have a huge gay following partially because of your portrayal of Chi-Chi the would be drag diva in To Wong Foo..We knew you were never just a boy in a dress.
JL: (laughs) ‘Don’t cry little Latin boy. That’s how I know who is in the audience: When I mention my movies. When I talk about Carlito’s Way a the hoodies go, ’yeah, Carlito man.’ When it’s To Wong Foo…, it’s the gay crowd yelling. That movie has become a cult classic; especially now with Patrick’s passing away, it has even more fans.
L: What was it like working with Patrick?
JL: He was a sweetheart. I didn’t totally get along with him when we did the movie… (see Klass Klown for further details, John suggests) but as a person, I really dug him, a genuinely nice dude.
L: You have worked twice with Baz Luhrmann who made such unexpected hits as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. What were those experiences like?
JL: Baz Luhrmann is a genius director and there are only a handful of those. I really enjoy working with him. He’s very collaborative with the actors. I hurt my back on that movie playing Toulouse-Lautrec. I compressed the vertebrae in my lower back. Eventually, I couldn’t be on my knees more than 10-minutes at a time, but it was completely great.
(no compressed disc was hindering his squirrely hip-hop turns & retro-vogue dance moves that punctuated his show)
L: Children may not know you, but I’m sure many know your voice as Sid the Sloth in The Ice Age animated films and find you funny. Do your kids find you funny?
JL: They didn’t. They thought everybody else was, like Jim Carrey. They told me I could learn from him. Now that’s funny.
L: With the renewed attention given illegal immigration and the ever-changing economic climate, are things really better for minorities in Hollywood?
JL: Things are better than when I started out when all you got to play was a drug dealer, a murder or a janitor. Look at what’s happening in Arizona, there is a huge Latin population there. Until they change that racist law, I cancelled dates there. So are other Latino performers. It is a slap in the face to all of us.