John Leguizamo is a father of two (though his kids are now grown), but it’s his latest role as a smokejumper turned babysitter in Playing with Fire that gave him a run for his money. Alongside John Cena and Keegan Michael Key, the trio end up caring for three kids—ages 16, 10 and 4 – after their parents go missing in a wildfire. “It takes three guys to be one good mom is really what it is,” the Golden Globe winner tells HOLA! USA. “I love the plot.”
The movie by Paramount Pictures has all the elements – comedy layered with a serious undertone that is most definitely a ‘feel good’ film for the family. “We had consultants and experts on the movie set who tried to make us look as real as possible, even though it's a comedy,” he shares. “We still wanted it to look authentic and respect [firefighters] because they're the biggest heroes in our country right now.”
Like the movie, the Colombian-born star, who plays a former convict turned firefighter, is equal parts funny as he is serious. Keep reading below for the film’s other important message, to see how the Latin History for Morons’ actor is turning ‘growing up super poor into a superpower,’ and what he is thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving.
HOLA! USA: The movie is about these tough firefighters who end up babysitting. Your kids are older, but did you quickly fall back into that parenting mode?
John Leguizamo: “I mean they were so cute, and they were so talented and professional. It was easy. I mean, I enjoyed the kids a lot. Obviously I spent more time with Christian [Convery] who's so talented and such a great sport.”
Also your character, Rodrigo, is a convict turned firefighter. It's important to show that once you get out of jail you deserve a second chance…
“I love that message because you know, I work with GOSO, Get Out and Stay Out in New York City. I mean, the programs work. People want to change their lives and make amends and have remorse. To respect that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.”
The ultimate jokester, John played gags on the kids but one ended up backfiring
He's also quite the foodie. Are you a good cook?
“I'm an okay cook, but I am a foodie. I love food… sushi, omakase, when you put yourself in the chef’s hands. I love my Latin food too. You know, I love, mofongo, sancocho. I love my pupusas, you know. I love a homemade corn tortilla.”
Speaking of food, with the holidays coming up, is there a family staple that’s always served?
“My aunt Nellie always made a lechon and arroz con gandules. And coquito. Oh, I love some coquito. My cousin’s in-laws make the best coquito. It has got to have the right amount –it can’t have too much cinnamon because it gets like a Cinnabon and it can't have too much alcohol because then it's like lighting fluid.”
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, what are you thankful for?
“Well, obviously thankful for my family and for my health more than anything else, but I'm really thankful that we, LatinX people, are really starting to not allow ourselves to be excluded, erased or overlooked. We’re not doing that anymore. No more taking a back seat and waiting to be asked to have a seat at the table. I mean definitely we need Latin executives because if you're not LatinX, how do you even understand what our stories are.”
You’re on tour now entertaining and educating in Latin History for Morons. What’s it like putting on this show night after night?
“It has gotten more powerful. I mean, people come back to me at the end of the night, and they say they've been changed, transformed. And you realize we're more alike and more similar than different regardless of the state I'm in, regardless of ethnic groups.”
It was also just announced that you're releasing a comic book PhenomX…
“Yes, I'm so excited because I'm self-publishing. I'm trying to inspire Latin people to do everything ourselves and not wait for Hollywoodn’t. I wrote the story and Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez is producing it with the designers, illustrators, the pencilers, the drawers all being LatinX. The story is this guy from the hood who grew up underprivileged, not having much. And it's turning all the toxicity of growing up super poor into a superpower. It should be out right after Christmas.”
And lastly, are you a lechon guy or go for the turkey?
“Oh, lechon. I mean we do do turkey, but I, I'd rather have lechon anytime, anywhere. I just had a dope lechon in Chicago at Girl and a Goat. That pork was right.”