Name: John Leguizamo
Neighborhood: Central Village. “They call it the Gold Coast, to be precise.”
Occupation: Actor, currently filming The Nest with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph. On Monday, July 28, you can catch him in a free performance of his acclaimed one-man play Ghetto Klown in Central Park, as part of SummerStage’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Fania record label. Find details here.
Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
I have two people. The first is Miguel Piñero, a Puerto Rican poet and playwright back in the ‘70s. He’s very important to all Latin writers and poets: putting out stuff that was so gritty, and so edgy, and using the vernacular. It was the beginning of hip-hop, in a way. My second one is Andy Berman, who runs the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. He’s so incredibly selfless and altruistic, really trying to preserve all the history that we have downtown, and I just find him so classy when he goes out there to protest. Whereas I get so passionate that people stop listening to me, he still stays on point. It’s about winning a debate not bullying somebody. I love that, it’s so elevated. So unlike me.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
Man, that’s one of the reasons I love New York. So many great meals. You always go to your last great one, right? For that, I gotta say Smorgasburg. You just want to eat one thing from every booth and every country. And I love ethnic food, so I’m going from Ethiopian to Colombian, to Filipino then Japanese, then barbecue. Other than that, I have a few joints that I frequent because I’m a creature of habit. One of them is La Taza de Oro, an old-school Puerto Rican diner on 14th Street and Sixth Avenue. It’s mom and pop and the food is just like if mom could really cook, you know? Really quality and tasty. It just makes you feel like you’re at home, in between two large mama’s breasts, when she’s hugging you.
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I act. I act like I know what I’m doin’!
What was your first job in New York?
I was a stock boy at Kentucky Fried Chicken when I was 16, then I worked my way up to cook. It was the one Times Square one, so it was not easy. We had to fight the homeless and fight to keep all the drugs out.
What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Oh my God, one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen: Richard the III, Mark Rylance. Beautiful.
Do you give money to panhandlers?
If they have a skill. They have to earn it. If they sing, if they dance, if they play an instrument, my wallet just comes out immediately.
What’s your drink?
I like fancy iced tea. Green tea iced tea is my favorite, I guess — then I get my antioxidants and anticarcinogens in. I hate that Lipton’s crap, that instant shit. But I’ll drink that, too.
How often do you prepare your own meals?
Never. I was a latchkey kid so I can definitely cook myself, I just don’t like to. I mean, I’m in New York, and I got a phone.
What’s your favorite medication?
I gotta say, I think melatonin is my favorite. I love that stuff. I have the best dreams on it.
What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
That it’s a house.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on the subway?
Well, the latest thing I saw was the bomb; these kids were breakdancing and doing flips during rush hour, hanging on to the bars or hanging on to the pole. It was incredible because they didn’t hit anybody. I was blown away. And then I gave them money.
When was the last time you stayed out past 3 a.m.?
This whole entire month, and last month. I’m an actor.
Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
I love the old, dirty, gritty New York City. I just do. I’m just nostalgic for it. It was underpopulated, and people were just interesting. It was kind of scary and that was fun.
What do you think of Mayor de Blasio?
I dig him, man. I think the poor guy’s inherited a lot of problems, just like my Obama did. He’s got his heart in the right place. I like those kinds of politicians.
What do you hate most about living in New York?
Manhattan used to be so cool; it’s not cool anymore. It’s sterile. All the cool people are in Brooklyn or Queens — where I used to be.
If you could banish one person from New York forever, who would it be?
That’s a tough one, man. It’s a race between John Sexton, the head of NYU, and Donald Trump.
When’s the last time you drove a car?
Five minutes ago.
Finish this sentence: The NYPD _____.
Are the real un-caped crusaders. Not those comic book mofos.
Times, Post, or Daily News?
Where do you go to be alone?
What makes someone a New Yorker?
We stand up for shit, and we can stand alone. We are the most self-possessed people. We don’t shut up easy. And we don’t go down without a fight.