John Leguizamo is very excited about Marvel’s “Black Panther,” especially because of what the film will mean for young people.
The star and creator of Broadway’s “Latin History for Morons” spoke about the importance of representation during an interview with Ricky Camilleri at Build Studio in New York on Friday. He also told a moving story about a young boy’s reaction to the Wakanda Prince and superhero.
When Camilleri asked the actor about portraying federal agent Jacob Vazquez in Paramount Network’s recent TV miniseries “Waco,” Leguizamo said he took the role because it was a positive portrayal of a Latino.
He said that whenever he gets “the chance to have a positive Latin role model out there, I jump for joy.” It’s part of his effort to stop “the negativity out there” that plague many Latino characters.
Leguizamo then said that the representation of people of color on television had improved, but there was still a lot of work to be done in film. That’s when he brought up “Black Panther” and the power of seeing yourself on-screen.
“This ‘Black Panther’ thing is so exciting for me,” he said. “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.”
He added that when kids see themselves represented in a positive way, “it 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 previously said that he was motivated to write his one-man show about Latin history because he felt it was important for Latinos to see the important role they’ve played in history. That’s a subject he touched on during a 2015 interview with HuffPost Live.
“We’re not taught anything that we contributed to this country and we’ve been around for 500 years,” Leguizamo said about high school history courses at the time. “Just imagine, you’re a white kid and all of a sudden everybody’s Latin and everything they’re teaching you is Latin and you don’t hear anything about yourself or about your contributions ... and you feel like you haven’t contributed anything. How would you feel? How would you think of your future? How would you think of your participation in American culture?”
Watch Leguizamo’s full interview with Build Studio above.