LATINO VOICES
02/03/2017 12:51 pm ET

How John Leguizamo Changed The Way Lin-Manuel Miranda Viewed Theater

The "Hamilton" creator expressed his admiration in a Vanity Fair article.

Bobby Bank via Getty Images
Before Lin-Manuel Miranda, there was (and still is) John Leguizamo. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda may now be the toast of the town, but he hasn’t forgotten the Latino star that showed him theater’s limitless possibilities.

In a Vanity Fair piece titled “How John Leguizamo Taught Lin-Manuel Miranda to Embrace Being ‘Young, Gifted, and Latino’,” the creator of “Hamilton” gives a personal account of the first time he saw “Spic-o-Rama,” the HBO one-man show Leguizamo wrote, produced and starred in. 

“I remember popping in the cassette and seeing John Leguizamo leap across the stage in orange baggy jeans and braces, playing the dorky, nine-year-old Miggy,” Miranda recounts in the piece. “Then he was Crazy Willie, a Persian Gulf War vet with serious relationship issues. Then Raffi, a flamboyant would-be Elizabethan actor in Jackson Heights. It slowly dawned on me that Leguizamo was playing every member of his hilarious, dysfunctional family, on his own electric terms.” 

Miranda, who is now one Oscar away from being a MacPEGOT winner, wrote the piece as Leguizamo prepares to return Off Broadway with his new one-man show Latin History for Morons.  

The Puerto Rican star is often described as a visionary for his smash hit “Hamilton: An American Musical,” but Miranda recognizes that Leguizamo opened a door for his own work on Broadway. 

“Spic-o-Rama hit me (and a generation of future Latino writers) like a thunderbolt,” Miranda writes. “As an erstwhile theater kid whose knowledge of it was strictly confined to traditional musicals such as Oklahoma! and Fiddler on the Roof, witnessing a Latino actor write and star in his own show, reveling in the specificities of our culture with brilliant, razor-sharp wit and a uniquely hip-hop energy, exploded my every notion of what theater could be.”

In a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Leguizamo said he felt the need to create and star in his own shows because of his experience being pigeonholed by Hollywood. 

“It was an antidote to the system, to the Hollywouldn’t-ness of it all, you know?,” he said. “And it was that, because I didn’t want to be a drug dealer or a murderer for the rest of my life. That’s not me, that’s not my people.”

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