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John Leguizamo has done funny for most of his career. A couple years ago he embarked on a new kind of funny, starting a period of candid introspection that is now the focus of his newest movie “Fugly!”
In the film, co-written by the Colombian-American actor and inspired by the name he was called in school, Leguizamo plays Jesse Sanchez, a ghetto nerd from the Bronx who grows up in the shadow of his better looking, womanizing brother.
Sanchez gets into acting in hopes of growing out of the nickname and over the course of the film his luck with women improves and his career takes off — sort of.
“I wanted to show an actor’s life but in a more fictional way,” Leguizamo told Fox News Latino. “I do my one-man shows, they are very personal. I wanted to do something a lot less personal, have more fun with it and be freer.”
“Fugly!” – which Leguizamo describes as an “anti-romantic comedy” – was directed by Alfredo de Villa and stars Rosie Perez, Radha Mitchell, Griffin Dunne, Yul Vasquez and Olga Merediz.
“It’s not your usual female rom com… this one geared toward men,” Leguizamo said. “This guy was fugly as a kid and he cleans up his act a little, gets a haircut. And he wants to be a player, but he keeps falling in love and that’s the problem – he is a serial monogamist.”
He said that while the film is fictional, he definitely tapped into what he learned from his experiences starting off as an actor in New York.
“Jesse Sanchez, in the movie, does similar things that I had to do to survive as a comic, as a Latin man in this industry that is ‘Hollywouldn’t’,” Leguizamo said. “I put what I learned from my experiences in the move – it’s definitely influenced by my life. It’s not my life but I definitely put some in to have resonance, to be relevant.”
In “Fugly!” Leguizamo also taps into some serious issues: the struggle of Latino actors and depression suffered by comedians.
“There are still issues that are prevalent, but there are so many more opportunities (now). Back in the day, there were no leads,” he said about being pigeonholed or stereotyped. “I was always the guy getting shot up and dying early in movies, a lot of villain roles. That’s what happens. Luckily I had theater … as an antidote to that nonsense.
Leguizamo said he wanted to talk about depression among comedians in “Fugly!” because it is something that happens. In the film, Jesse’s life is burdened by an accumulation of issues that make the movie “more than a throwaway comedy,” Leguizamo told FNL.
“Comedians do suffer from a lot of depression. A lot of comedians have breakdowns,” he said. “It comes with the territory. It’s a lot of pressure to constantly to be up and be funny. There is a lot of pressure to be funnier and to top yourself.”
“I wanted to put relevant stuff in there,” Leguizamo added.
“Fugly!” hits theaters Friday and Leguizamo cannot be happier.
“It’s like having great, great sex and I want to sit back and take a little nap and just marinate in the joy of it all,” he said. “I just feel so happy that it all came together.”