John Leguizamo says his To Wong Foo character should be played by a trans latina actor if the film were made now

‘Anybody can play anything, but the playing field is not fair that way’

Louis Chilton
Tuesday 08 September 2020 13:02
Comments
John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi Rodriguez in the 1995 comedy 'To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar'
John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi Rodriguez in the 1995 comedy 'To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar'

John Leguizamo has stated that he believes his role in the 1995 comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar should have gone to a transgender actor.

In the film, Leguizamo plays drag artist Chi-Chi Rodriguez. While Chi-Chi is never explicitly identified as trans, many fans have interpreted the character as such.

Ahead of the film’s 25th anniversary, Leguizamo told NBC News: “We have to make amends. Anybody can play anything, but the playing field is not fair that way. 

“Not everybody is allowed to play everything, so until we get to that place, it is important for trans actors to get a chance to act.”

The comments come amid a wider conversation over who should portray LGBT+ roles.

Earlier this year, cisgender actor Halle Berry revealed she would be appearing as a trans man in an undisclosed forthcoming film, misgendering the character during the announcement. 

After this prompted a backlash, Berry then announced she would be stepping down from the project. 

In 2018, Scarlett Johansson also stepped down from a planned trans role in a project called Rub & Tug after criticism from many in the LGBT+ community.

Leguizamo also stated that a modern To Wong Foo would also have to take into account the character’s racial heritage.

Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze in 'To Wong Foo'

 “Latin people should be playing Latin people — no more brown face,” he said. “Enough of that, and the same thing in the LGBTQ community, same thing. There are actors out there who are out that should be playing those roles.”

Nonetheless, he reflected fondly on the film’s legacy.

“It was a powerful thing. I get lots of fan mail from LGBTQ teens telling me how my character helped them come out to their parents,” Leguizamo said. 

“They didn't feel like they were seen, so that was a beautiful gift from the movie.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in