Latin History for Morons: John Leguizamo's Road to Broadway (2018) - full transcript

Comic and actor John Leguizamo examines the repression of Hispanic culture throughout American history in his one-man show "Latin History for Morons."

-Next, "Great Performances"
teams up with

Latino Public Television,

-So, yo, tonight's lesson is...

-For a behind-the-scenes look
at John Leguizamo's hit show.

-"Latin History For Morons."

And that's you.

I've always been fascinated by
Latin history,

and just never really delved as
deeply as I wanted to

until my son
got bullied at school.

-All the steps it took to
realize his personal quest.

-Then it really came together in
my head, you know,

how to empower my son.

-"John Leguizamo's
Road to Broadway" is next.

-"You Americans..."

...not even the
are as good as you.

I don't know

how you people do it.

You Americains are so good

that I just don't know...

I can't really pinpoint
the exact moment

when "Latin History
For Morons"

metastasized inside of me.

The process was a long process.

I mean, it wasn't just a few
months and then I wrote a play.

No its been years and years
to get it to Broadway.

Whoo! Here we go.

-And now, please welcome
John Leguizamo!

What's up people?

-John Leguizamo
came on to my radar

when he exploded in
the whole American theater.

We all noticed John Leguizamo.

-Latino people
in the house bark.

That's my people.

-We'd had solo shows.

We'd had monologists.

But for the most part, these
were really well educated,

soft spoken white dudes

who would get up and tell

ironic, interesting stories
about their lives.

And suddenly, there was this
ball of fire

from the streets of New York,

who not only wasn't pretending
to be anybody but who he was,

but who was exhibiting the most
embarrassing and real

parts of himself to the world,

and making extraordinary humor
out of it.


Aah! Mom!

What are you doing climbing in
through the window?


The rent is due!

-I see this firebrand on stage

with the energy of five people.

I was astonished at this
freewheeling talent.

-Cause I'm young, gifted
and Latino, word,

let me tell ya.

Ahh! Ahh!

-So dynamic, so much movement
and physical characterization;

everything that I really admired
in a performer.

But I'd never seen anyone
with that kind of talent.

-All right, Ma, I'm gonna be
straight up with ya,

I'm, uh, I'm in a little
trouble, all right.

I'm at the 110th precinct.

Now, I'm telling you,
this is the last time, Ma.

I swear to God this is never
gonna happen again, okay?

-He's constantly reminding you
of his humanness

and his vulnerability.

And I actually think that's what
elevates his art

to another level.

-To my first born...

I love you...

But you're a disappointment.

-John and his work have changed
the American theater landscape.

He has brought the voice of
working-class Latinos

into the mainstream,
into the spotlight,

into the center of
the American theater.

-Oh, come on, ese, its not like
I'm stealing

or living off of you good
peoples' taxes!

I'm doing the -- jobs that
Americans don't want.

What? Well, tell me --
just tell me --

who the hell wants to work for
$2.25 an hour

picking toxic,
pesticide-coated grapes.

All my shows have helped me grow
in some aspect

or in a part of my life,
but this one,

this one was about healing
my sense

as a Latin person in America.

No, no, no no, settle down.

No, no, stop, stop, stop.

No, seriously, stop --

we got a lotta work to do
here tonight.

And I got very little time
to do it.

'Cause I gotta undo
your whole education

and the entire way you think,

and its not gonna be easy,
'cause that -- in there deep.

-John framed the story of
"Latin History"

as him trying to discover his
own Latin past

when he discovers that his son
is being harassed

for being a Latin kid.

-And I get to my son's room,

and I find out that
my son is being bullied

by one of his eighth grade

And it starts out in the school
yard when they're just playing

cops and robbers, and the little
punk says to my son,

"You beaners can't be cops!

I ought to know -- I come from
a long line of captains

and generals
from the Civil War.

You better start running away
before I shoot you in the back,

you little beaner."

-And so they go on this quest,
you know,

to find a Latin hero.

And that becomes John's very
real autobiographic story

about him not knowing a lot
about his own cultural past.

-I've worked hard
to be sort of respectable.

So, how is it that my son is
going through

the same racial rite of passage
as I did?

When kids used to pick on me,
it was hard for me to argue back

because I didn't know...

I didn't know anything about
Latin history.

So you have no comeback,
you have no comeback

I mean, they go,
"Get out of my country,

you don't belong here,
this is my country,"

I mean, I would, like,
be like...

So, in order to help my son,

I realized that I was going to
have to get to

the root of my problem --

my feeling like
a second-class citizen.

So, I started flashing back
through my life,

to my childhood,
back in time, back...

So, here we are
in Jackson Heights --

my home town,
where I grew up.

This was where I went to
junior high school --

that's "middle school"
to the fancy folk.

And New York City was close to
bankruptcy back then.

Remember that
New York Post headline?

"Ford to City: Drop Dead"?

So, we were 50 feral latchkey
kids per class.

It was like
"Lord of the Flies,"

but with a lot less
adult supervision.

Education at that point was not
a big priority of mine.

My history teacher, Mr. Flynn...

I think, that's all part of
the fact that we're not included

in any history textbooks,
any of the literature.

And by "we," I mean, Latin
people and people of color.

We're not the subject matter

of any of the stories you're
being told or taught.

Um, yo, yo, yo, Mr. Flynn,
what I really, really, really

wanted to ask you is, um,

how come you talkeded about
everybody else's contributions

to America but my people's?

'Cause, yo, my Uncle Sandy,

he says that this whole thing
about us being discovereded

by this -- Colombo,

it's, like, bull, you know,
'cause we was conquesteded.

So, that's like me discovering
your wallet in your back pocket

and now it's mine, right?


Mr. Guizmo, you want to know
what your people have

contributed to this country?

Drugs and violence. Now, sit
your ignorant ass down.

I didn't learn a lot of history,

but I did get a sense of pride

from growing up
in Jackson Heights

because my neighbors were
predominantly Latin

and all my friends were from
every country in Latin America.

And you get a sense of pride
from that.

And I realized that, you know,
Latin humor, Latin culture

was bigger than what I was being
told at school

and what I was being told
through the messaging

that comes
from television.

Everybody around me was Latin.

Everybody appreciated
being Latin.

We weren't ashamed of ourselves
within our own community.

Its only when you got outside of
it that you realize,

"Oh, wow, I wonder what
our worth is," you know?

Well, what happened
in the 3,000 years

between our great indigenous
civilizations and us?

How did we become
so non-existent?

Because if you don't
see yourself

represented outside of yourself,
you just feel invisible.

The whole thing about the play
was to address the issues,

that, why are we
such a populous people

with incredible resources,

and why aren't we as successful?

"Those who cannot remember
the past

are doomed to repeat it, coño."

Is the European and the American
white version of us true --

that somehow, we're inferior?

Otherwise, why aren't we
further along?

And then I started doing all
this research,

and it was very, very
powerful for me.

And I went through a lot of
different complex emotions

when I started
doing the research.

-Most Americans do not know

that most of what is today
United States,

was at one point either a part
of the Spanish empire

or part of Mexico.

We are talking about everything
west of the Mississippi.

-Three-quarters of

the United States, right?
That should be obvious.

Look at the state names.

"Arizona," what does that mean?
-Dry land.

-Red land.

-There is like, I don't know,
260 counties

that have Spanish names
in the United States.

Mexicans are the first group
that became citizens --

much earlier than
Black Americans,

much earlier than
Native Americans,

much earlier than...

-If they were white,
but what if they were mestizo?

-They were classified as white
because it's --

-Even? Oh, wow.
-Because only whites

could be citizens.

-I didn't realize, I started
doing all this research,

and all of a sudden I found out
that 10,000 Latin people

participated in
the Revolutionary War,

that Cuban women in Virginia

gave up all their jewelry
to feed the patriots.

And then I found out that
20,000 Latin people

served in the Civil War.

-Francisco Miranda, who fought
for American independence,

should have a big statue next to
Washington, I guess.

-That's right --
where is that damn statue?

-It's not there, and if it is,
it'd be white marble.

-This is called a labret.

It's an ornament that would have
been worn through

the lower lip.

-I mean, imagine if that
picked up with the rappers.

It wouldn't work.

-Well, it's tough to eat
breakfast with it.

-Yeah, yeah,
that would be tough.

-But it's a thrilling piece,
and it's a really rare piece

because one of the things we
have to understand

with the Aztecs is that
the Spaniards arrived

and they very quickly melted
things down into ingots,

or they brought things
back to Europe

and melted them down later to
raise money for various wars.

This is a very fragile heritage

and hugely important
for our understanding

of the ancient world
in a global sense.

The Aztecs and the Inca built on
thousands of years

of complex societies
before them.

You think about the Maya,

there was nothing so big in
Europe at this time.

The architecture,
the soaring temples,

the great palaces, you know,

it makes places like
Paris and London

look like backwaters.


I've always been fascinated by
Latin history,

and I just never really delved
as deeply as I wanted to

until my son
got bullied at school --

especially when it became
a racial bullying.

"Latinos" -- this is the section
right here, man.


Hispanic Research Directory,
Brown Tide Rising.

Then it really came together
in my head, you know,

how to empower my son,
you know?

-I think John wanted to make
sure that his children knew

where they came from
and who they were,

and to be proud of that.

It was for his kids,
and I think it was for,

also, his community.

-The most exciting part for me
was when I got to

our contributions
in American history --

that's when I really started to
feel like, oh, my God,

now I feel
this needs to be known.

-John mentioned to me that he
was working on a new piece,

and we have this program here
called The Ground Floor,

and I just asked him if he'd be
interested in being part of

The Ground Floor, which means
you're coming out in residence,

there's no pressure on coming up
with a finished product,

but you have to sort of decide
that you want to work on

something in a safe environment.

And he came out and he spent
about a week and a half with us.

At that point, he had a bunch of
lectures, really.

They were these initial essays
about Latin history.

They weren't funny.

-It was mostly history,
with a little --

with the -- my son's things
and the family stuff

very peripheral,

because I didn't want it to be
about my family.

I wanted it to be about
the history.

-This is where I think,

the germination of something
larger happened on the project.

-Fast forward, like,
a few months later,

I'm in New York,

and he asked me to meet him
for coffee.

It's pouring rain.

I remember just being soaked
completely when I got in there.

And we get in this place,
and sit down,

and we get a coffee and he said,

"Will you help me
work on this piece?"

-I asked him to direct it
because I knew he had

vast experience in theater,

and I really needed that
expertise with this piece.

-At that point in my life,
I was done with solo shows.

I was done.

Directing a solo show, honestly,
it's like being a midwife.

It's not even directing --
it's kind of like

you're part dramaturge,
part director, part therapist,

part colleague,
part friend.

It's a very different kind of
relationship, you're really --

it's a more
intimate relationship.

But the fact that
I had made up my mind

that I was not going to do solo
work, and John says,

"Hey, will you work on my show?"
I said, "Yes, of course,"

-When Tony came in, I was ready
for a new inspiration,

to be reinvigorated,
to be challenged.

-He said to me right away,
he said, like,

"I'm not going to
feel comfortable

unless I perform this thing

200 or 300 times
before we do it."

I'm like, "200 or 300 times?

What, are we playing, like,

bar mitzvahs and weddings?
What are we doing here?"

-Right now we are performing
a reading of a show

that is a work on progress.

This is called
"Latin History for Dummies."

Please welcome the one and only
John Leguizamo.

-The poor people
in these comedy clubs,

they were not ready for what
I was about to bring.

I was going to
do it my way.

But, yo, this is the way I work
my stuff out,

you know,
I test it in front of audiences,

I did Freak and Ghetto Klown
this way, I read it first.

Thank you, thank you.

My process has always been
to read it --

because if I lock it in my mind
and I memorize it,

then it doesn't change.

I always read it off
my own computer.

You know, 'cause I can't keep
all these facts in my head.

My mother told me
not to do drugs,

I should have listened to her.

That's my experimentation time

and I got to
protect it fiercely.

I need to have
total flexibility.

So, in the next 80 minutes,
I'm gonna take you through

3,000 years of Latin history...


So, it's kind of like Latin
History for Dummies with ADHD.

There were a lot of fans who
came up afterwards.

Like, "I thought it was going to
be funny,

I thought you were going
to be talking about your family,

it was like a history lesson."

So with all the diseases

and the brutal enslavement
of these peoples,

that was the end of the Tainos
and their time in Earth.

I realized that as much as I
love the history

and my friends
who I read it for --

in my basement office,

they all love their history;

the public wanted
more personal life.

I was dating this Cuban chick

and I was laying down
the law on her,

like an idiot.

And I was like,
"Look, mami, look,

I'm gonna be home when I want

and if I want, at what time
I want,

unless I tell you otherwise,

and I don't expect any hassles
from you.

Those are my rules,
any comments?"

And my Cuban honey was like,
"No, that's fine with me.

Just understand that there's
gonna be sex here every night

at 7 o'clock
whether you're here or not."

So I realized that I had to give
them history

and a personal anecdote that
somehow merged with the history.

Oh, yo, if my mom had made that
meal for the Pilgrims,

their asses would've swam back
without the -- Mayflower.

And it's very addictive,

because they're so focused
and ravenous to laugh.

Okay, Cortez -- for short.

And the mother, "Ay, mi niño..."


No seas pendejo...

-John is essentially a comic,

so he's going to want to
entertain people,

and want to make it really
exciting and fun to watch,

but I think one of my jobs
on the show

was to encourage
the other side of him.

So the need to have jokes,
you know,

on a consistent basis

was at odds with where I thought
we needed the piece

to really go.

-But at the same time I wanted
this history

to be very palatable to
the audience I wanted to reach,

which were people like me,

and young folk, you know,
and turn them on.

And you need -- I needed
the JPM's to be high,

you know,
the jokes per minute.

I needed a high volume of jokes.

And so the comedy clubs
gave me that,

but then I had to go back to
the theater where, you know,

people want depth,

and they want the teeth,
and they want the anger,

and they want
all the real feelings.

You're gonna listen to me,

'cause I've been trying to get
you to notice me

my whole life, Dad.

I first did my first play at
Sylvia Lee's Studio,

I did "Dino,"
about this troubled kid

who was getting arrested.

And it was like, "Oh, my God,
this is my life."

It was crazy because I was like,
"This play is saying the things

that I can't articulate."

But I knew I could feel them.

-And John did it
with such passion.

I was so moved

that at that time I said,

I think that he has
the material.

-I did some student films that
won all these awards.

I was on "Miami Vice," I was
the guest villain on that.

Tubs always did like
good-looking women.

Did he tell you about
my sister?

-I don't have to talk to you.


-Orlando, this isn't what you
came for.

-The way they typecast Latin
people were like,

the 7th lead,
or we're just the flavor,

or we're the guy who comes on
the screen and gets shot,

he goes, "Yo, man, what's up,
I got the crack right here,"

you know -- Pow!
And you're dead.

And that's all you have.
There's never, like,

a three-dimensional character
that leads the movie.

I had a lot of white friends,

we all went to acting school,
we went to NYU together.

They're going to
five auditions a day,

and I'm going to one, maybe,
a month.

For a drug dealer.

"Mambo Mouth," that was it man,
that was like,

"You know what? I'm gonna take
things in to my own hands.

I'm not gonna wait for Hollywood
to see that I have value.

I'm gonna write my own stuff
and do my own stuff

because I wanna see my people's
stories told."

I know you're gonna go home
and he's gonna beat you

and you're gonna let him
beat you.

And you're gonna go through this
love-hate, hate-love thing

until one day you're hiding in
the closet

with an iron in one hand
y crazy glue en la otra.

I was talking about real things
and showing them,

and making people laugh
and making them cry

all in the same time.

And that's what I wanted to
bring to American comedy.

Critical juncture.

-In your repressed ghetto rage.
-Repressed ghetto rage.

And then I say I have a latent,
but then I say I have a latent

ghetto, then I say...

-Untreated severe case...
-Of latent ghetto rage.

-Chronic latent...
-Chronic latent.

Untreated severe case of
chronic latent ghetto rage.

You reached a critical juncture

in your repressed ghetto rage...
Repressed ghetto rage.

-We went from the comedy clubs
to La Jolla.

La Jolla was our first serious
theatrical venue.

-Right now I'm just trying to
act and be in my characters

and make them more specific
from the stand-up comedy clubs.

That was kind of just
reading it,

but now I have inhabit them,

they've gotta become different
and deeper,

and now that the wife was
added more, and the daughter,

and the son's journey became
really important.

It's a theater piece now,
so they have to have real arcs,

and real specific characters, so
that's what I've gotta work on.

I gotta stay true
to my own rhythms...

It's getting
more and more complex,

and that's what you want,
a really complex piece.

Before, it was more like jokes.

Now, I'm really being tested
as a playwright.

-La Jolla, the Page To Stage
program they have there

was a limited number of

in which John was able to
develop the piece

in front of a live audience.

-Please welcome John Leguizamo!

-That's incredibly valuable
because it was a live audience,

but it wasn't a comedy club.

-I walk out of
my therapist's office

with an untreated severe chronic
case of latent ghetto rage,

and I don't even know
what to do, man!

The only thing I can do
till the next session was

dig in to more research because
I thought if I could find a hero

for myself then maybe it would
cure me of

my ghetto rage, right?

-As a live audience
in the theater,

they had the patience for
the seriousness of intent

that John had
in "Latin History."

-And we were three million
Tainos in the Caribbean,

nine million Incas
in South America,

six million Aztecs in Mexico,

and seven million Apache,
Comanche and Navajo

in North America,

for a grand total of
26 million people,

until The Great Extermination.

-So, they were actually willing
to let John go to

the very thoughtful,
very deep places

he needed to go to,

some of which weren't funny,

to make
"Latin History" work.

-We're not outsiders,
we're not foreigners.

We're a vast network of tribes
that co-mingled, cohabitated

North, Central,
and South America,

Caribbean and Mexican Indians,

and we is
all the same blood.

It's so vast that,
when I had my DNA done,

when the results came back,

they couldn't tell
which tribe I was from.

All it said on the label was
"Native American."

-John started to take
intellectual responsibility

for his own history

and for the history of
his people,

and that was a major shift,
I think,

in who he was as a performer,

what he represents for his
audience, but more importantly,

what he represents for himself.

-The clock is ticking
in my head, man,

a giant clock
was ticking in my head.

-And the places he was going to,
kind of,

understand who he was,

and not to diminish
the substance

and the serious content of what
he was trying to talk about

by distracting us
with comedy.

-So I started double-checking
and triple-checking all my facts

to get it right for him,

and I find this book
by Howard Zinn.

And I realize...

Oh, yeah, he gets an applause,
that bastard.

I got to say,
La Jolla was brutal.

La Jolla was the most changes,

experimenting with
whole new scenes.

Sometimes I had to read them
because they were so fresh,

there's no way
I could remember them.


Oh, yeah, we were
happy go lucky tribes...

Somebody was on book, they knew
I was gonna ask for line,

it was where I could make
the most aggressive changes.

And I knew that,
so I used that opportunity.

My hero is...
My hero is...

And I'm already standing up.

I was testing things out,
you know,

and I was testing a lot of
different endings.

My hero is...

My hero is my mom.

Thank you, thank you.

Thank you,
thank you.

-When we're in La Jolla,
we sort of came up with a shape,

a general shape
for the evening.

There's a lecture going on,

where John is lecturing with
the audience,

he's the "teacher."

And then there's the story about
a parent

who's trying to reach his kid;

and then there's the story of
John in therapy, essentially --

John trying to understand
his own psychology.


-I want to shake your hand.

The beautiful thing about these
theatre towns

like Chicago, Berkeley,
La Jolla, and New York,

is that the audiences
are trained

to watch works in progress.

I don't know if you feel
a difference from L.A.,

but people really like theater
here, man.


-And they're willing to
stay extra,

and they like to comment,
and they like to feel like

they're a part of
the contribution

of the making of the piece.

-It felt like your son choosing
his mother as the hero

is a really feminist way
to add to the play...

-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-But, then, because it was

"Latin American History
for Morons,"

it felt like, but I wanted the
hero or heroine to be Latino.

Or Latinx.
-Yeah, yeah, no,

I know what you're saying,
it definitely,

when I heard that, I was like,

"Oh, yeah, I forgot...

I forgot that my wife
was white.

They were all making sure that I
wasn't selling out Latin people

or white-ifying
Latin history.

They were pushing me
to put more teeth into it.

I feel like we got the pillars.


-And its just the little

-You got the narrative,
the flow...

-We got the history we want.

We got the history
the way we want it.

Now it's a matter for getting
the family,

me and my wife things,
the headmaster thing,

my daughter thing,

and some of
my son and me things.

-And the you thing.

-The me thing --
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

-All the way along, because
we're tracking you, dude.

-Right, right, right.

-And so, so --
but its all gonna be...

-I mean I feel like they're
there, I mean,

it's just a matter of
highlighting them,

bringing them out, or setting
them up a little better

so they pay off a little better.

-Connecting them up -- connect
them up to each other.

Okay, all right, good.
-Hey, Oskar,

great seeing you man.
-See you in New York.

-Yeah, yeah.
See you in New York.

-Oskar Eustis, who runs
the Public Theater,

when I told him I was working on
something with John, he said,

"Just tell me
when to be there."

-I wanted to go to The Public.

I mean,
that was my big thing.

I wanted to be under
Oskar Eustis' wing.

How he shaped "Hamilton"

and helped Lin Manuel
achieve his masterpiece.

I wanted to be under
that tutelage.

-The basic idea of
The Public Theater

is about democracy --

the basic idea is that culture
belongs to everybody.

And so, if The Public Theater
were to design a show

that should be at
The Public Theater,

"Latin History for Morons"
would be that show.

Because its exactly what John's
doing in the show.

John is trying to reclaim
history for his family,

for his son, for himself,
for his people.

And that's what
The Public Theater

is in the business of doing,

trying to make everybody
the subjects of history,

not the objects of history.

-Getting to The Public was like
we landed, you know?

So I'm gonna be coming
from here.

Here we are in New York City,
and the possibilities are real.

The possibility of going to
Broadway is real.

The possibilities of this being

a long-running play in
New York City are real.

-I just want it to feel like
a space that you took over.

-Right, right, right.
-You know what I mean?

-Like you guerrilla'd it.
-Yeah, totally.

-You took it over.
Yeah, it's awesome.

I love that idea.

We had a long rehearsal



You know, I had put it down
for a while.

We were rediscovering it
a little bit,

and I wanted to have enough time
to get these characters,

these voices, all this text.

-It goes out of his head
pretty quickly.

So, to get that going again took
a lot of work

and a lot of practice.

I don't care --
as long as we're together.

I'll create
a voguing distraction.

But which loincloth should
I wear -- the eagle feathers --

or the jaguar -- "arr!"

-My back, my belt.

-Get ready, get served.

-When we first started doing
the dancing stuff, he's like,

"It's gonna take me a year
to do this."

-Because there's so much talk,

I always like to add
dance breaks

to let people digest
a little bit.

It's like a break
for the audience and for me

to connect more intuitively
on a more instinctual level.

-Dude, it is exhausting.

Do a solo show, and you're
trying to memorize this stuff

and get those dances right.

the stamina it takes.

John has extraordinary energy,
but it is an exhausting thing.

And every so often, he would
just remind us of that,

going, "Guys --"

"I'm dying out here."

-My dancing is like my sex life.

I can only do it once now.

It never seems finished,
it never seems done.

It just never does, you know?

-John has got
a very unique process,

because he is so wedded
to understanding the material

through the performance,

and yet he's a very, very
rigorous and disciplined writer.

-I don't like it.

Much better.

-What looks to be
casually spoken on stage

is a result of hours and hours,

I mean, hundreds of hours of
reflection and practice

and going over the material

so that he could own it in a way
that feels second nature to him.



-We're doing cartoon sketches
to explain complicated ideas,

that gets problematic.

-Problematic but doable...

-It's not doable in the same
cartoon context,

that's the issue.

-We don't fight, but we argue.

There's a difference between
fighting and arguing --

I mean, I think arguing is
healthy; fighting is not.

We don't fight, like,
I don't --

"This is my territory" --
we fight like,

"That idea
is not the best idea."

-We have three spots.
-No, no, no, no, no,

when you say the diseases
on the blackboard, you do.

You do.
-But that's late,

that's late in the game.
-I know, I know,

but we should, we should...
-And the Aztecs.

-Where is that?
Where is that?

-Don't yell at me.
-Where is it?

Goddamn it!
-Don't yell at me.

You send me into flashbacks
of my childhood.

I can't...
-That's good. That's good.

I can't think.
I start to, I start to...

-It's the only time
you were innocent.

-There's always something
happening between Tony and John.

I think the real show really is
Tony and John

talking to each other,
then the show itself.


-That's not that funny.
-It's not supposed to be funny.

- Oh.

-Jesus Christ.

-It's ham and eggs.
You know, it goes together.

They really, really
get each other.

-Can I just introduce one idea?

-On page 8...

We talk a lot about history.
We talk a lot about politics.

We talk a lot about what's going
on in the world

and how does it impact
the piece,

and how does it continually
force us to change?

'Cause I think we gotta ask
ourselves that question:

if we're gonna, like,
be satisfied

with this other desire we have

to kind of redress the imbalance
of history

as we've learned it, right?

-The two think they're using
each other,

but Cortez had
the upper hand on him.

It's like Trump and Bannon

And Cortez is Bannon.

So I was writing "Latin History"
way before Trump,

but I definitely felt that after
Trump won

that I had to go harder
and not hold back,

because he doesn't hold back.

And we're almost 70 million

hard-working, contributing

and this president has
effectively declared war on us,

by publicly denigrating

and American citizens
in Puerto Rico.

-Mr. Trump is challenging what
has become accepted

as the conventional truth,
as is, ironically,

John is challenging the same
idea of what is

accepted historical fact
about Latin history.

-And how dare he?

How dare he, when we're not
the enemy --

just quite the opposite,

because we're the only
ethnic group

that has fought in every single
war this country's ever had.

We have shed blood for America

in each and every single one
of their wars.

We're the most-decorated
ethnic group

in each and every single
one of those wars.

Where are our contributions
listed, mentioned,

or even celebrated?

Can you imagine if they were put
back into history,

put back
into history textbooks?

Can you imagine how America
would see us?

And, more importantly,
can you imagine

how we would see ourselves?

The sort of crisis that John
experienced in the course of

his intellectual jihad,

the way that he was trying to
find Latin heroes

and simultaneously finding them

but somehow failing to help
his son.

That dialectic was the core
tension of the show,

and we needed to make that
as strong as possible.

-Dad? Dad, do you not like
yourself sometimes too?

Well, honey, I --

I only have the guts to admit it
to you.

-Over the course of
its development,

"Latin History" both got deeper
in its historical mission,

but it also became a much more
emotional story

about the relationship between
a father and his son,

and how to be a father.

But that's not even the type of
kid he was.

But was that the type of kid
that I was turning him into?

-And it both is inspiring to
watch that whole process,

and it's also thrilling to
realize one of the things

that all that work did for John

was make him a better and better
human being.

He's found out how to work out
his demons through his art

and heal.

-And I go out there with
the courage of

a little Jean Claude God Damn.

If you touch my moms

or anybody else
in this house again,

I swear to God, you're my
father, but I'll kill you...

What, do you think you're man
enough to take me on, boy?

Papito, shut up, he wasn't
talking to you, okay?

But -- but, Mom, I thought...

That's right, go back in the
kitchen cause you're a pussy!

"I'm gonna kill you, bitch,
I'm gonna kill you!"

And she's like,
"Get out of my house, crazy,

get out of my house.
You're just like your father."

Come on, let's play something,
you wanna play something now?

Come on,
some Rock, Paper, Scissors?

Come on, Dad, come on,
some Johnny Ride the Pony?

Come on, think of
something, Dad.

Stoop ball, some stickball?
Come on, Dad!

Come on.
Now that I'm successful,

now you -- show up.

Where the --
were you before?

All my shows have always been
emotionally powerful

and sort of therapeutic for me.

Buddy, honey, promise me,
promise me,

if you're ever in an argument
not to lose your --

This is about evolution
of masculinity,

getting rid of macho toxicity,

you know, and that took me years
to evolve to that point

where backing down from a fight
shows more courage.

There is nothing
I would love more

than to mambo all over
your face,

but as a wise Puerto Rican-
Columbian-Jewish-Incan-Aztec kid

once told me, violence is the
lowest form of communication.

So I have to decline.

Remembering all the bullying
I got,

constantly being told, "Get out
of my country, you spic.

Go back to where
you came from, spic."

And then you're like you never
had a retort except,

you know, " -- you."

Because I didn't know that we
had built this country

and discovered this country

and sacrificed
for every war.

Once I knew that, I was like,
I'm not backing down.

I don't have to resort to

I got facts -- and that's
kind of what I wanted to give

my son was, sort of,
weaponizing our history.

These conquistador,

melted all our golden art
into coins.

Yo, that's like going into
the museum in Florence

and seeing the statue of David
and going,

"Larry, Larry,
look at that statue,

it would make a lovely marble
kitchen counter."

-We knew that when we closed at
The Public

the life of this show
wasn't done.

-Because King Philip
of Spain...

-There was still an awful lot of
people that wanted to see

the show, and the question is,

what was the next step
going to be?

Was the next step going to be

turning it into
a television show?

Was it going to be touring it
around the country,

or could it be that we could
move this show to Broadway?

-Getting a show to Broadway
is very hard.

It takes a lot of money.

-When you're moving a show
to Broadway,

you are always facing
the reality that

four out of every five
Broadway shows

lose their investment entirely.

Don't get a penny back.

It's a really risky
business proposition.

And it was very uncertain
at moments,

but some people,
especially Nelle Nugent,

who is his producer on Broadway,

that did a fantastic job of
marshaling all the money

that we needed to do it.

-But then Nelle had to get in
line to get a theater.

-The booking that was going into
the Studio 54 fell out,

and when a little bird

"That show is canceling,"

I called Todd immediately.

He said, "How did you know?

And, yes,
you can have the theater."

-Yeah, tight on the tape so that
it doesn't move.

-Enjoy the show.

-And now, please welcome,
John Leguizamo!

-Break a leg, break a leg!

Oh, no, no, no.

No, no, no, no --
settle down!

-The goal always was
to get to here,

so to be able to reach it feels,
you know, fantastic.

So, yo, tonight's lesson is...

"Latin history for Morons,"

and that's you.

I'm sorry, but it's true.

We went from 400 people
to 1,000,

and half of them Latin,

now the laughs were really long
and really big.

-The laughs end up being

They end up being, kind of,
group affirmations,

or group recognitions,
or group shared fears.

-And then, they go and do it to
us again in the 1930s

with the Repatriation Act,

where they blame

for taking jobs during
the Depression.

Sound familiar?

So, Herbert Hoover
"repatriates" -- deports --

500,000 Latin people
who were born here.

And those of us that didn't
leave were lynched --

about 200 of us.

And now,
they're doing it to us again

with the Anti-immigration Act,
"SB4: Show Me Your Papers Act."

Making us so afraid of
getting profiled,

we have to pretend we
can't even speak Spanish.

No poder hablar, como poder

hablar sin saber hablar,
tu hablar, yo no poder hablar.

Saber, saber, hablar tu hablar.

No perder.
Perder, perder, saber, saber.

John, wake up. Wake up!
It's Buddy's graduation.

And, John, he says he's got
a big surprise for us.

-The play builds to this
climactic moment where Buddy,

the son, gives a speech about
who his hero is.

Um, at first, when
the headmaster asked me to take

my hero project and turn it into
this speech,

I -- I wasn't prepared.

But then something in the last
few weeks changed for me,

because I learned from watching
my dad heroically fail.

It was always going to be Buddy
winning verbally,

and understanding that a "hero"
has a lot of connotations.

And it doesn't have to be
just winning

because you beat somebody up
or you defeated somebody.

And the only thing was,
who is the hero of the piece?

Because of a situation I had,

I was forced
to look inside myself,

and that's when I saw that,
in some ways,

I've got lots of heroes in me,

because I am Frida Kahlo,
and I am Cesar Chavez,

and I am Menudo,

and I am Sonia Sotomayor --

And I am definitely not
Ted Cruz.

-He had to really deliver
the climactic event

in Buddy's voice.

Part of what
he needed to realize

was that he had to step back

and give his son
center stage.

It was
an immensely emotional moment,

because it both
makes the show work better,

but it's also, for me,
John recognizing

what's important in life,
not just in the theater.

-What as one of my fellow
classmates once said to me,

"You're the king of nothing."

But if the Mayans invented
the concept of zero,

then nothing
is not nothing.

And if they can make something
out of nothing,

then my hero is...

my hero is...


I think that's the most
empowering aspect of the piece,

that we're all our own heroes
and we can be our own heroes.

Especially with people of color,

when we see so few of
our heroes celebrated,

that we do kind of have to find
that within ourselves.

-You made me cry so much, John.

-How's it going?

Its such an honor to meet you.
You're a big hero of mine.

You're fantastic.

I feel like a lot of people
coming to see the show

have been touched.

And people start weeping,
you know --

the pain of being a Latin person

and having to work so hard
to validate yourself

in the world and this country,

because there's so much
negativity toward us.

-It's very powerful,

and, you know, there's just so
many people need to know...

-What's going on, yeah?
-And who we are,

and why we're worth it and...

-Ourselves included,
ourselves included.

-For me it was a huge lesson.

I saw it at The Public,

and it's a huge lesson of how
important we are

and that we do matter

and we didn't just show up in,
like, the '70s.

-It's what theater is for,

theater is to light a fire,

to inform,

to speak about things that
people don't look at

in a certain way.

I think this is a real

in-your-face attempt to say,

"Look, this is how it is from
another perspective."

-I learned that we all have
a voice and we need to use it.

-I'm gonna take this and I'm
gonna let it inspire me to

not only do what he's doing,
but to create change

that I want to see in the world.

-We're at an inflection moment
of history.

It's a moment where either

the Latinx population
of this country

is going to be recognized

as not just acceptable members
of society,

but the core pillar
of America.

And for me,
the beauty of John's show is,

it didn't just talk about

why Latinos are central
to the United States;

it demonstrated
by his own example --

being up there on
a Broadway stage,

saying, "I am on the biggest
stage in the United States,

and I belong here by right."

-It's our pleasure to present
the special Tony Award

to the force of nature that is
John Leguizamo.

-John won a special Tony Award
for his body of work.

-It was incredible, man,
to have my work acknowledged,

and my contributions to theater
and playwriting.

I just wanna say, look,

I'm an immigrant,
and I'm not an animal.

Um, I may smell like one.

I think I smell like one tonight
because I'm a little nervous,


-John is rising,

and he's rising to
a group of people

that need his voice,
you know --

and I'm not talking about
Latin Americans.

I'm talking about people like me
need to hear his voice.

White America needs
to hear his voice.

He's articulate, he's funny,
he's kind,

and he's angry -- and he has
a right to be angry.

-And it's even more important
with Latin people because we are

the least represented minority
across all media.

That's why theater has always
been my sanctuary,

because this pervasive exclusion
stops there.

And it stops here tonight --

and every night I was
on Broadway --

because thousands upon thousands
of Latin people showed up

and paid unreasonable prices

just to be able to
see themselves

reflected back on one night,

they could feel someone was
talking about them to them.

Esto es para todos ustedes
mis hermanos y hermanas.

Nunca retrocedan
y nunca acepten menos.

And lets never forget the 1,500
missing Latin immigrant babies

in detention.

And 4,645 dead American citizens
in Puerto Rico.

Never forget them.
Thank you.

I find that the stage
and theater

is an incredibly
inspiring space.

If you see
a great Broadway show,

it stays with you
for the rest of your life

as if it was a personal
experience of your own,

not like movies where it's
always foggy and more dreamlike

and it's a little abstract
and distant.

When you see a play
that you rock with,

it's like you had
that experience yourself,

and it moves you
in a different way.

It's like what for me would be

the equivalent of church
for somebody else.

It feels like church.

And "Latin History for Morons"
especially felt like church,

because people were, I mean,

they screamed to their feet
at the end

because they felt the journey,
they felt we went places,

they felt
we traveled through time

and got reparations
in some kind of way.

Why is all our art called
folk art,

and then all the European art
is called "fine art,"

and then "modern art" is just
our folk art gentrified!

-Nicely done.

-Oh, my God!

-That was hot dude.

-Mm! Mm-mm-mm!

I made it.

Jesus Christ.

God help me.

Oh lord. Oh Jesus.

-El guardo!

El guardo.

Let me help you with that.
No, I don't like it like that.

Let me help you with that.
I like that.

-To find out more
about this

and other "Great Performances"
programs, visit

find us on Facebook,

and follow us on Twitter.

-Over, get me in.

Hurry up, hurry up.

-Get in there, get in there.
-Okay, beautiful.

-All right, good, good.

-All right, that was a good one,
that was a good groupie.

Thank you.

Hey, hey.
I walk like a New Yorker.

Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.