John Leguizamo Q&A: ‘Ghetto Klown’
Poor John Leguizamo. He's no longer eligible to snag the Emmy he won for "Freak" in 1999 – Best Performance in a Variety Special. The TV academy recently nixed that category, but his new "Ghetto Klown" competes in other variety races, including best special ("Freak" was nommed 15 years ago) and Leguizamo is particularly interested in one more.
"I'm excited that 'Ghetto Klown' has been declared eligible for best writing," he says. Often stage-to-TV transplants don’t qualify because they don't have enough new, original material, but "I made so many changes from the Broadway version to the HBO version that it's really almost a different show."
This show is his latest, brutal examination of a turbulent life spanning his gritty youth (battling prejudice, poverty and police in the barrio) to Hollywood rise (clashing with Sean Penn and Al Pacino on movie sets), following up on his earlier confessional works "Mambo Mouth," "Sexaholic," "Spic-o-rama" and "Freak." At the Emmys, it competes against many other specials by stand-up comedians like Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, Patton Oswalt and Maya Rudolph, but only Billy Crystal's "700 Sundays" has the dramatic depth and heft of "Ghetto Klown." There's room for both in the variety categories, but they've got to get around "The Kennedy Center Honors," the Beatles' 50th anniversary TV special and "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" to win.
"Ghetto Klown" will be hard to ignore, though, considering its in-your-face theatrics, but Leguizamo doesn't regret revealing too much about himself.
"I did feel embarrassed saying a lot of things, but I had to push through that," he says. "Talking about my breakdown, talking about my performance anxiety, and sharing a lot of stuff that I only share with my therapist. I felt there was a great good to it. I want to inspire kids out there. I want to tell them: 'If I can succeed, so can you.'"