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Performance anxiety

Hyperactive raconteur John Leguizamo continues his onstage self-exorcism, this time with tales of making it in Hollywood

Photo: Austin James, License: N/A

Austin James

It’s been almost 17 years since your sketch comedy series House of Buggin’ was prematurely canceled. Why can’t we buy it on DVD or stream it on Netflix yet?

I think part of it is because it was a really expensive show. It was like $1 million an episode. To put out a box set – I tried, it’s just really too expensive.

Congratulations on your new development deal with ABC Television.

That’s not a development deal – I’m shooting a pilot. I’m on level 2 of the game, or something. This is going to be fun. I’m doing a sitcom, so this is going to be really interesting. I’m shooting for fall; I don’t really know TV, but if I shoot a pilot in March, is that for fall season or a mid-season replacement? I don’t know. [Laughs] You know, TV’s not my thing, I do movies and theater.

You’ve done live theater, feature films and episodic television. As an artist, which medium is most fulfilling?

Oh, theater! Even when it’s not my own piece, it’s the actor’s medium. Especially when you write your own stuff, then it’s the writer’s and actor’s medium. The vibe you get from the audience. You can really say what you really think. There’s no corporate whitewash.

You’ve performed Shakespeare on screen (Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet) and stage (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Any plans to return to the Bard? I’m sure Orlando Shakes would love to have you as a guest artist.

I’d love to do that short attention span version of Shakespeare [Complete Works … Abrgd, coincidentally being presented by Orlando Shakes next season] so I can do all the works in an hour. I like that show, I’d like to do that. Actually, I think someday I would like to do Shakespeare in a more serious way. Probably try Richard III or be Iago in Othello. It would be great.

You have a son who is 11 now. Has he discovered Super Mario Bros. yet, and have you showed him the movie [in which Leguizamo co-starred as Luigi, with Bob Hoskins as Mario]?

He loved the movie. He saw it when he was about 8. Then he moved quickly into Spawn [in which Leguizamo played a demonic clown] and then he was into The Pest. He’s played Super Mario Bros. forever; I couldn’t compete with him.

In George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead you got turned into a zombie and snacked on Dennis Hopper. How do you think you’d fare in a real zombie apocalypse?

Oh man, you know, that’s a good question. I’m pretty savvy and fast. It depends if it’s George Romero zombies that move slow, or the remake [zombies], who are extremely fast. In that scenario I might be done for, but I’ll take out a couple hundred.

According to urban legend (aka IMDb.com), the great acting teacher Lee Strasberg died after coaching you for just one day.

Absolutely true. I was in his school, it was my first master class. One emotional memory exercise and he was gone that night. I’m sure it was [my fault]. My acting was so bad back in the day, I’m sure it did the poor man in.

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