"Encanto" star John Leguizamo spoke to the Academy Awards' "Seen" series about colorism in Hollywood.
Leguizamo said that he stayed out of sunlight for years to stay "light-skinned" for roles.
He also said that a studio executive told him that "Latin people don't want to see Latin people."
"Encanto" star John Leguizamo said that he avoided the sun in order to stay "light-skinned" for acting roles in a new interview for the Academy Awards' "Seen" series.
In the "Seen" YouTube series, host Nick Barili speaks to Latino filmmakers and actors about the film industry after a USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study of the top 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019 found that only 3.5% of leads and co-leads were Hispanic or Latino across that 13-year time frame.
During his appearance on the series this week, Leguizamo — who was born in Colombia — said that director Spike Lee and the #OscarsSoWhite campaign encouraged him to speak out against colorism in Hollywood.
"I posted #OscarsSoWhite but #HollywoodsEvenWhiter," Leguizamo said. "There's colorism within Latin culture that we have to fix but there's colorism in Hollywood too. I benefitted from being light-skinned."
The "When You See Us" actor continued: "I stayed out of the sun so I could work. I definitely would not go in the sun for years. It was a conscious thing because I could work. And all the Latinos that made it so far, a lot of them were all light-skinned. What happened to all the Afro-Latinos and the majority of indigenous Latinos? They don't get a shot, you know. So, there's a lot of things we got to deal with in Hollywood, and we got to fix, and we got to speak out and we got to speak up."
Lin Manuel Miranda's 2021 musical "In The Heights" received criticism for its lack of Afro-Latino actors in main roles, especially since the area the movie focuses on, Washington Heights, is predominantly Afro-Dominican. "In The Heights" director Jon M. Chu said they tried to cast "the people who were best for those roles" in response to the criticism.
Meanwhile, Miranda, who wrote the original musical and starred in the movie, apologized for the colorism and said he would work for better representation.
During his appearance on "Seen," Leguizamo also complained about the lack of Latino talent shown on-screen. Latino and Hispanic people are almost 1 in 5 of the US population and, according to a Motion Picture Association of America study from 2018 reported by Variety, that community makes up a significant portion of movie-goers.
However, Leguizamo said that he has been told by studio executives that "Latin people don't want to see Latin people."
"Things are improving," The "Encanto" star added. "I think COVID made us really look at ourselves in America. Black Lives Matter was a huge awakening for America, a reboot for America to look at themselves and see what's going on. I think everybody's trying to do the right thing and hire many more people of color."
He said: "I want to see 20 percent of the roles in front of the camera and the crew. I'm not asking for extra. I just want what's due to us."
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