From his meticulously disorganized desk, John Leguizamo surveys the scene of his characterful if rather chockablock office, located in the basement of his Greenwich Village home. “I like to have everything I’m working on close at hand.”

JL in his Greenwich Village home
John Leguizamo comic

Leguizamo’s 2018 Twitter bio makes it clear: “I’m a neurotic paranoid schizoid mestizo mulato underachieving overachiever!” Center stage on the actor/playwright’s desk: a copy of the just published FREAK (the second of a three-part graphic autobiography), a collaboration with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez and a team of talent from the comic book industry that tells Leguizamo’s story from his inception to his family’s immigration to the U.S., continuing on to the “grit and glamour” of Queens in the 1970s and — finally — to stardom.

John Leguizamo  contemplating

JL: “You’re telling me that more than 100,000 teenagers just preregistered to vote in California? Oh, man. Wow, dude, that’s amazing. How exciting is that?”

John Leguizamo at window

JL: “I guess I tend to look at the bright side. You can quote me on this. This whole thing about people saying that all these illegal aliens, immigrants are coming in here … but we have to do the right thing. These people are coming here not as terrorists.”

John Leguizamo under cherry blossoms

JL: “All the immigrants from Europe were coming here because they needed jobs and opportunity. It was easy to come to America back then. You didn’t need a visa … all you needed was to be able to cough — to make sure you didn’t have TB. That was the only reason. You didn’t have to be, like, super-skillful or brilliant, or the best.”

John Leguizamo on the street

JL: “Back in the 1800s during slavery if a runaway slave came to your house, it was illegal to have them in your house, but it was the moral thing to do. Anne Frank — to board and hide Anne Frank — was illegal during Nazi Germany. But it was the moral thing to do. It’s the same thing right now. These immigrants coming here — the moral thing is to give them shelter and give them an opportunity, not to turn them away or lock them up. They’re fleeing danger, poverty, hunger, the same thing that all the Pilgrims were coming here for, freedom of religion.”

JL on Washington Square North
John Leguizamo on the sidewalk

JL at the Washington Square Arch. “I personally take a lot of optimism in the kind of marches and the kind of organizing that’s going on. Look at how the youth are politicized. These kids are sacrificing their lives. So eloquent, so politically savvy.”

JL at the Washington Square Arch
John Leguizamo Washington Square Park

JL: “What is an American now? I think an American is somebody who’s a citizen of this country and respects everyone equally. I think that one of the beautiful things about America is the freedom of speech and the opportunity or the belief that we were all fighting for equality. It’s still the greatest human experiment, this country. It’s still the best. It hasn’t been taken down yet.”

JL in Washington Square

1–4: JL in his Greenwich Village home
5–6: JL on Washington Square North
7: JL at the Washington Square Arch
8: JL in Washington Square | @JohnLeguizamo

Related Links: The Secret of AmericaGreat Immigrants | Sally JewellArt Acevedo | Arianna Huffington | Kwame Anthony Appiah

Photographed by Jennifer S. Altman, New York City, April, 17, 2018 | Produced by Kenneth Benson