06/11/2014 07:22 pm ET Updated Jul 02, 2014

John Leguizamo Explains Why Latinos Are ‘The Fuel Of This Country'

John Leguizamo thinks Latinos are the key to building a “viable” economy in the United States.

On Wednesday, the Colombian-born actor stopped by HuffPost Live and spoke with host Ricky Camilleri about his role in Jon Favreau’s latest indie project,“Chef,” and the power of Latinos at the box office and within the economy as a whole.

Leguizamo, 49, stars as Martin in the family comedy -- a cool and quick witted sous chef who helps his best friend, Chef Carl Casper (Favreau), reconnect with his culinary roots. The film, which had a limited release in May, continues to grow in popularity with a starstudded cast that includes Sofía Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr. and more.

The star recently enjoyed the success of his HBO comedy special and one-man show “Ghetto Klown” -- currently nominated in two Emmy categories -- but shifted gears to work on Favreau’s (“Swingers,” “Iron Man”) “passion project.”

Camilleri then pointed to new data that has been stressing the power of Latinos at the box office and asked the “Chef” star about whether he’s noticed a change in Hollywood’s attitude toward the demographic.

“You definitely feel like there is some mission statement, ‘Get me that Latin guy, get me some Latin folk’,” Leguizamo told HuffPost Live. “But it makes sense, Sofía Vergara broke out of ‘Modern Family’ because her Latin audience is so hungry to see themselves on screen. When George Lopez and I travel around the country and tour, I mean you’re selling big venues people are paying crazy money to see you because they’re so hungry to hear their stories reflected back, they want to see themselves reflected. ‘Fast & the Furious,’ that’s why Michelle Rodriguez is in that thing because if you put a couple of Latin characters the thing doubles, triples, quadruples.”

Leguizamo also spoke candidly about his own experience as a Latino artist as he was beginning his career.

“Everybody was telling me ‘Don’t be Latin,’ ‘Stay out of the sun,’ ‘tell people you’re half-Italian’,” the actor said.

While discussing House majority leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected congressional loss on Tuesday, which many blame on his work on immigration reform, Camilleri asked the actor if he made it a point to stay on top of news concerning immigration.

“As much as I can, yea I do,” Leguizamo said. “I’m definitely for amnesty, I feel like Latin people and immigrants are the fuel of this country and give you that sort of base -- that can do the low wage stuff that can take jobs from China and bring them back here, and keep us productive because we produce nothing and that’s really rough for an economy to stay viable.”

Watch a clip of Leguizamo’s thoughts on immigration above and the full interview below.



John Leguizamo