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John Leguizamo
NYU Expansion Plan Lawsuit Press Conference (12122282936) (cropped).jpg
Leguizamo in 2014
John Alberto Leguizamo Peláez

(1960-07-22) July 22, 1960 (age 63)13:04
Bogotá, Colombia
  • Colombia
  • United States
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active 1984–present
Yelba Osorio
(m. 1994; div. 1996)
Justine Maurer
(m. 2003)
Children 2
Comedy career
  • Film
  • stand-up
  • television
  • Improvisational comedy
  • observational comedy
  • character comedy
  • blue comedy
  • musical comedy
  • satire
  • Latin American culture
  • childhood
  • self-deprecation
  • family
  • sex
  • marriage
  • parenting
  • race relations
  • everyday life

John Alberto Leguizamo Peláez (/ˌlɛɡwɪˈzɑːm/, LEG-wih-ZAH-moh; Colombian Spanish: [leɣiˈsamo]; born July 22, 196013:00) is an American actor, comedian, and film producer. He has appeared in over 100 films, produced over 20 films and documentaries, made over 30 television appearances, and has produced various television projects. He has also written and performed for the Broadway stage receiving four Tony Award nominations for Freak in 1998, Sexaholix in 2002, and Latin History for Morons in 2018. He received a Special Tony Award in 2018.

Leguizamo rose to fame with a co-starring role in the fantasy adventure Super Mario Bros. portraying Luigi and a supporting role in the crime drama Carlito's Way portraying Benny Blanco (both 1993), followed by a role as drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in the road comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), for which he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination. Other films include Romeo + Juliet (1996), The Pest (1997), Summer of Sam (1999), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Empire (2002), Love in the Time of Cholera (2007), Righteous Kill (2008), The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), The Counselor (2013), John Wick (2014), John Wick 2 (2017), and The Menu (2022). He narrated the sitcom The Brothers García (2000–2004) and voiced Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age franchise (2002–2016), and Bruno in Encanto (2021).

Leguizamo is also known for his television roles including Freak (1998) for which he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. He received further Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the Paramount miniseries Waco (2018) and the Netflix limited series When They See Us (2019). He's also appeared on ER, The Kill Point, Bloodline, and The Mandalorian. In 2023, it was announced he would host the MSNBC series Leguizamo Does America, premiering on Sunday, April 16.

Early life and education

Leguizamo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, on July 22, 1960, the son of Luz Marina Peláez and Alberto Rudolfo Leguizamo. His father was once an aspiring film director and studied at Cinecittà in Rome, Italy, but eventually dropped out due to lack of finances. According to Leguizamo, his surname is of Basque origin and he has distant Basque roots.

Research by the genealogy show Finding Your Roots indicated that Leguizamo does not have Puerto Rican, Italian, and Lebanese ancestry, as he has sometimes stated (the latter of which he claimed through his maternal grandfather). His family is Colombian, and a DNA test found that his genetic ancestry has Indigenous, European (especially Iberian) and some African roots. His paternal grandfather was a wealthy Colombian landowner, and his great-great-grandfather, Higinio Cualla, was Mayor of Bogotá for sixteen years in the late 1800s, and was considered an important modernizer of the city. Before this discovery, Leguizamo had claimed that he was Puerto Rican on his father's side, which was one of the reasons he was selected as the Puerto Rican Day Parade Global Ambassador of the Arts, and marched in the parade on June 12, 2011. It was determined that Leguizamo's maternal lineage includes the 16th-century Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar, as well as Jerónimo Betuma, a 17th-century indigenous Colombian of noble birth.

When Leguizamo was 3 years old, his family immigrated to New York City, where they lived in various neighborhoods in Queens, including Jackson Heights. He later credited growing up as one of the first Latino children in the neighborhood as formative in his acting ability: "It was tough. There were lots of fights. I would walk through a park and be attacked, and I had to defend myself all the time. But this helped me to become funny so that I wouldn't get hit." His parents divorced when he was 13 and lived with his mother growing up. Leguizamo and his family constantly moved apartments in Queens, attending multiple elementary schools. Leguizamo was arrested twice as a teenager, once for jumping a turnstile at a New York City Subway station and another time for truancy. His family later sent him to Colombia for a year where he stayed with his relatives.

Leguizamo attended the Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (I.S.145) and later the Murry Bergtraum High School. As a student at Murry Bergtraum, he wrote comedy material and tested it on his classmates. He was voted "Most Talkative" by his classmates. After graduating from high school, he began his theater career as an undergraduate at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, from which he eventually dropped out in favor of a career in stand-up comedy. Post-NYU, Leguizamo enrolled at LIU Post and at HB Studio, where he took theater classes.


Early career

Leguizamo started out as a stand-up comic doing the New York nightclub circuit in 1984, and in 1987, he performed at The Public Theater in two shows, including as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He made his television debut in 1986 with a small part in Miami Vice. His other early roles include: a friend of Madonna's boyfriend in her "Borderline" video (1984); Mixed Blood (1985), Casualties of War (1989), a terrorist in Die Hard 2 (1990), Hangin' with the Homeboys (1991), the robber in Regarding Henry (1991), Super Mario Bros. (1993), and Night Owl (1993).


John Leguizamo (4701169051)

In 2000, Leguizamo portrayed both Genies in Arabian Nights, a TV mini-series adaptation of the epic One Thousand and One Nights. In 2001, RCA/BMG Records released John Leguizamo LIVE, a CD compilation of Leguizamo's stage routines. Among the bits are a primer Leguizamo gives on the history and culture of Latinos in America, which with the dubious tale of the mating of an Inca princess with a Spanish conquistador, thus creating the original dysfunctional Latin family, each member of which is voiced by Leguizamo. The CD also includes a musical intermission, with two salsa/hip-hop tunes, "The Night Before Christmas" and "Gotta Get Some", and footage from Leguizamo's tours and two interactive games, "Spanish Fly Pick-Up Line".

To promote the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge!, he appeared on a celebrity edition of the US version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with Kelly Ripa, Kevin Sorbo, Alfre Woodard, Martin Short and Chevy Chase. Appearing as the first celebrity to sit in the hot seat, he eventually tried for $125,000, but got the answer wrong. In 2002, he starred in the movie Empire. That same year he wrote and performed in Sexaholix... A Love Story, which explained his love life and how he started his own family. Later in 2002, on the syndicated version, a question about the movie featured his character and Meredith Vieira mentioned that Leguizamo had played Lautrec and had been on the show. In 2002, he voiced Sid the Sloth for the film Ice Age, reprising the role for the sequels Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: Continental Drift and Ice Age: Collision Course. The game versions of the films also used his voice. In 2003, he voice-acted Globox from Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. Leguizamo portrayed Paul in the Brad Anderson thriller film Vanishing on 7th Street.

John Leguizamo 2 by David Shankbone
Leguizamo at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival

In 2004, he guest-starred on Dora the Explorer as Captain Pirate Piggy. During the 2005–06 television season, Leguizamo joined the cast of the show ER, playing the emotionally disturbed Dr. Victor Clemente, a new attending who is keen on introducing the staff of County General to better ways of treating patients and cutting-edge technology. Clemente, however, was plagued with personal problems and was fired from the hospital near the end of the season. Dr. Clemente's departure from the show was a blessing for Leguizamo. He revealed to CraveOnline that he was not happy working on the television program.

In 2006, Leguizamo starred in the television pilot for Edison, a 2006 CBS drama about a Los Angeles detective (played by Leguizamo) who relied on impersonations and disguises to solve crimes. Other cast members included Currie Graham and Deidrie Henry. Kevin Rodney Sullivan directed from a script by Ron Milbauer and Terri Hughes. Leguizamo and David Hoberman also served as executive producers. In October 2006, Leguizamo's memoir was released. During an interview on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, he stated that his memoir was very candid about experiences involving other celebrities he had worked with. He stated that working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on Collateral Damage (2002) was one of the most enjoyable experiences he'd had as an actor.

In 2007, he played Michael Beltran in the movie The Babysitters. In 2008, he co-starred in the movie The Happening, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. In July 2007, Spike TV aired its drama series The Kill Point, which starred Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, and Michael Hyatt. The show was an eight-part series revolving around ex-war veterans whose bank robbery went wrong, thus ending in a hostage situation. Despite high ratings, The Kill Point was not renewed for a second season. A year later, Leguizamo guest-starred on Sesame Street as Captain Vegetable, who tells Elmo to eat his vegetables.


Natalie Merchant coming to Chicago Theatre (14903575283)
Leguizamo at the Chicago Theatre in 2014

In 2010, Leguizamo also guest-starred on The Electric Company as himself, rhyming about commas and quotation marks. In June 2010, Leguizamo opened his semi-autobiographical one-man theater show, Klass Klown (later renamed Ghetto Klown), based on his memoir. After the show ran at various theaters in the United States and Leguizamo performed an "unplugged" version of it under the title John Leguizamo Warms Up at a Chicago theater, it opened on Broadway in March 2011 at the Lyceum Theatre. The show, about Leguizamo's path from obscurity to stardom, opened to many positive reviews and was extended through July 10, 2011. A CD of the show was released. In 2011, Leguizamo received the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for his performance in the show. In September 2011, Leguizamo began an international tour of Ghetto Klown in Los Angeles. On July 13, 2012, PBS debuted Tales From a Ghetto Klown, a documentary about Leguizamo's life and the show's development. On November 16, 2013, John taped Ghetto Klown at The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ for HBO.

In 2012, Leguizamo was cast as Derek Trotter in the American remake of the British BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses. In October 2013, Leguizamo started filming for The Crash, starring alongside Frank Grillo, AnnaSophia Robb, Dianna Agron, Ed Westwick, Minnie Driver, Mary McCormack, Christopher McDonald and Maggie Q. The film is directed by Aram Rappaport and produced by Hilary Shor, Atit Shah and Aaron Becker. In 2014 Leguizamo starred alongside Jon Favreau in Chef as the line cook Martin, a role he prepared for by working as an actual line cook at The Lion in the West Village. Also in 2014, he played in the action comedy film American Ultra alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. He also starred in John Wick as Aurelio in 2014. The Crash was released on January 13, 2017.

In 2015, Abrams ComicArts published the graphic novel adaptation of Leguizamo's one-man Broadway show, Ghetto Klown. As with the live show, the graphic novel explores the actor/comedian's life and career, beginning with his adolescence in Queens, New York, his involvement in 1980s avant-garde theater, his feature film career, and some of the colorful characters he encountered throughout his life. Leguizamo describes the work:

"Ghetto Klown is the history that I probably never should have told anyone but my therapist, but it's a real lesson that even if you suffer a certain amount (a lot) of self-doubt and anxiety, you can still accomplish great things. It's a lesson I'm really excited to impart to a whole new audience."

The comic is illustrated by Christa Cassano. In 2016, Leguizamo played the role of Ozzy Delvecchio in the second season of the Netflix original series Bloodline. Also in 2016, he produced the Q Brothers' Othello: The Remix at off-Broadway's Westside Theatre.


John Leguizamo 2013 Comic-Con
Leguizamo in 2013

In 2017, Leguizamo sang on "Almost Like Praying", a charitable song written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Proceeds from the song went to the Hispanic Federation to assist relief efforts for those in Puerto Rico who were affected by Hurricane Maria. Also in 2017, he debuted Latin History for Morons, a show about the participation of Latin Americans throughout US history. The show premiered at the Public Theater before moving to Studio 54. Latin History for Morons was nominated for the 2018 Tony Award for Best Play. That year, he also was presented with a Special Tony Award for his body of work and for his commitment to bringing diverse stories and audiences to Broadway for three decades. In January 2018, Leguizamo was announced as the host of the 63rd Obie Awards held in May 2018 at Terminal 5.

In 2018, Leguizamo played undercover ATF agent Jacob Vazquez in the Paramount Network miniseries Waco. The following year, Leguizamo played Raymond Santana's father Raymond Santana Sr. in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us. Leguizamo wrote the original musical Kiss My Aztec, with book by Leguizamo and director Tony Taccone, music by Benjamin Velez, and lyrics by Velez, Leguizamo, and David Kamp. It was developed at the Public Theater in 2018 and premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theater and La Jolla Playhouse in 2019, where it received critical acclaim. Leguizamo also received Smithsonian Magazine's 2018 American Ingenuity Award in the History category.

In 2020, Leguizamo played Gor Koresh in season 2, episode 1 of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian. In 2021, he played Estragon opposite Ethan Hawke as Vladimir in Waiting for Godot and Wallace Shawn with The New Group Off Stage as a video performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Leguizamo provided the voice of Bruno Madrigal in the Disney animated film Encanto, which received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In 2022 he acted in the critically acclaimed Mark Mylod-directed comedy-horror film The Menu alongside Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes. In the film he plays a washed up movie star attending an exclusive restaurant with his assistant played by Aimee Carrero. Leguizamo says he based his character off Steven Seagal.

In 2023 he briefly hosted The Daily Show after Trevor Noah's departure as part of a series of rotating guest hosts. His brief tenure was a ratings hit, becoming the second most watched of the rotating guests only behind Al Franken. Other guest hosts included Sarah Silverman, Hasan Minhaj, Roy Wood Jr., Wanda Sykes, Leslie Jones, Kal Penn, Chelsea Handler, and Marlon Wayans. It also was announced he would host the MSNBC series Leguizamo Does America, premiering on Sunday April 16.

Personal life

Leguizamo married actress Yelba Osorio in 1994 and divorced in 1996 after two years of marriage.

He married Justine Maurer, a costumer on Carlito's Way, on June 28, 2003. Leguizamo is Catholic and Maurer is Jewish. They have two children, daughter Allegra Sky Leguizamo (born 1999) and son Ryder Lee "Lucas" Leguizamo (born 2000). They live in Manhattan.

In 2008, Leguizamo received the Rita Moreno HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA). In 2011, he received the Made in NY Award from New York City. In 2018, Leguizamo received an Honorary Degree from Marymount Manhattan College. Leguizamo gave the commencement speech to the Class of 2022 at Vassar College.


In 2004, Leguizamo was one of the celebrity supporters of Voto Latino, co-founded by Rosario Dawson. In 2012, he co-founded NGL (Next-Generation Latinx) Collective to create content for Latinx audiences. Backed by GoDigital Media Group, in 2022 NGL merged with mitú “to create the largest digital-first “Latinx powerhouse” in the US”. Leguizamo has also been heralded as a preservationist for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

In 2016, Leguizamo authored a searing op-ed in The New York Times. As of 2022, he is on the board of directors for the National Museum of the American Latino. In 2022, he spoke out against whitewashing in the casting of Hollywood movies.

Leguizamo has also been an activist directly through his artistic work. In 2017, he opened Latin History for Morons at The Public, and it later went to Broadway. Netflix filmed it in 2018, advocating that “teaching Latin history is the first step toward conquering prejudice”. In 2020, Leguizamo's directorial debut, Critical Thinking, was released. He starred in the biographical drama set in 1998 about an inner-city teacher and students who compete in the US National Chess Championship. He said that he wanted to “ create a universal message of hope and spread this message to the world.” In 2022, he performed Ghetto Klown "at Rikers Island Correctional Facility for an audience of justice-involved young men”.

In a 2023 interview with TMZ, Leguizamo criticized The Super Mario Bros. Movie for having actors Chris Pratt and Charlie Day voice the Italian-American Mario and Luigi, saying “No I will not [be watching]. They could’ve included a Latin character, like I was groundbreaking and then they stopped the groundbreaking. They messed up the inclusion. They dis-included. Just cast some Latin folk! We’re 20% of the population. The largest people of color group and we are underrepresented.”

Leguizamo is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. In 2023, he, alongside other figures, appeared in a video produced by Teen Vogue and online magazine Them called Dear Trans Youth affirming his support for transgender youth.



Selected credits

  • Casualties of War (1989)
  • Die Hard 2 (1990)
  • Regarding Henry (1991)
  • Hangin' with the Homeboys (1991)
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993)
  • Carlito's Way (1993)
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
  • Romeo + Juliet (1996)
  • The Fan (1996)
  • Executive Decision (1996)
  • The Pest (1997)
  • Spawn (1997)
  • Dr. Dolittle (1998)
  • Summer of Sam (1999)
  • Titan A.E. (2000)
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  • Ice Age (2002)
  • Empire (2002)
  • Spun (2002)
  • Land of the Dead (2005)
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
  • The Happening (2008)
  • Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
  • One for the Money (2011)
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
  • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011)
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
  • Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
  • The Counselor (2013)
  • Ride Along (2014)
  • Chef (2014)
  • John Wick (2014)
  • Experimenter (2015)
  • Meadowland (2015)
  • American Ultra (2015)
  • Sisters (2015)
  • Ice Age: Collision Course (2016)
  • The Infiltrator (2016)
  • John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
  • Nancy (2018)
  • Critical Thinking (2020)
  • The Survivor (2021)
  • Encanto (2021)
  • The Menu (2022)
  • Violent Night (2022)


Selected credits

  • Miami Vice (1986–1989)
  • Mambo Mouth (1991)
  • House of Buggin' (1995)
  • Freak (1998)
  • Arabian Nights (2000)
  • The Brothers Garcia (2000–2004)
  • ER (2005–2006)
  • My Name Is Earl (2006)
  • The Kill Point (2007)
  • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011)
  • Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade (2016)
  • Bloodline (2016–2017)
  • Waco (2018)
  • Latin History for Morons (2018)
  • When They See Us (2019)
  • The Mandalorian (2020)
  • Fairfax (2021–2022)
  • The Power (2023–present)
  • Leguizamo Does America (2023)


Year Title Role Venue
1998 Freak Writer / Performer Cort Theatre, Broadway debut
2001 Sexaholix Writer / Performer Royale Theatre, Broadway
2003 Broadway Theatre, Broadway
2008 American Buffalo Walter Cole Belasco Theatre, Broadway
2011 Ghetto Klown Writer / Performer Lyceum Theatre, Broadway
2017 Latin History for Morons Writer / Performer Studio 54, Broadway

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result Ref.
1999 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety Special John Leguizamo: Freak Nominated
Outstanding Performance in a Variety Special Won
2018 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Waco Nominated
2019 When They See Us Nominated
2015 New York Emmy Awards Entertainment Program or Special The Lineup: The Best New York Movies Won
Interview or Discussion Won
1995 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Nominated
2001 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture Moulin Rouge! Nominated
1998 Tony Awards Best Play Freak Nominated
Best Actor in a Play Nominated
2002 Best Special Theatrical Event Sexaholix Nominated
2018 Best Play Latin History for Morons Nominated
Special Tony Award Received


Charted songs

List of charted songs, with year released, selected chart positions, and album name shown
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"All of You" (with Stephanie Beatriz, Olga Merediz, Adassa, Maluma, and Encanto cast) 2021 71 83 111 Encanto: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

See also

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