‘Green Veil’ Star John Leguizamo Talks Playing Self-Hating, Vile and Twisted Character: ‘I Don’t Need People to Like Me in This Role’

‘Green Veil’ Star John Leguizamo Talks Playing Self-Hating, Vile and Twisted Character: ‘I Don’t Need People to Like Me in This Role’

John Leguizamo has portrayed a wide range of characters in his career, from comic book villains to Shakespearean legends to drag queens. Despite his versatility, fans have never seen him as dark and unsettling as he is in the new TV series “The Green Veil.”

His portrayal of the 1950s FBI agent Gordon Rogers was already rattling audiences after the premiere of the first four episodes of the new drama at Variety‘s TV FYC Screening Series on April 26 in West Hollywood. Following the screening, one fan revealed that it was difficult to witness Leguizamo’s character inflict trauma after trauma and asked how he managed to act out the scripted atrocities.

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“I don’t need people to like me in this role,” Leguizamo responded. “That’s not what I want. I want it to be understood, understood how a person becomes this vile and twisted.” This powerful performance set the stage for a thought-provoking conversation with co-stars Hani Furstenberg, Isabelle Poloner, John Ortiz, and series creator Aram Rappaport. Variety’s senior awards editor, Clayton Davis, moderated the panel.

The eight-episode series follows oppression in America in the 1950s through the story of Rogers, an immigrant who came to the U.S. as a child and chases the American Dream, only to find out it is all a lie.

Rappaport hooked Leguizamo into the project through his heavily researched script exploring the U.S. government’s nefarious plot to separate Indigenous children from their families to prevent them from inheriting land. The land was then handed over to oil companies or other corporate giants, eradicating the generational wealth and horrifically severing their familial bond. Leguizamo added that he was immediately on board with the project when he learned this practice continued from the ’50s and on into the ’80s.

“[Rappaport] created this character for me, this self-hating Latin man, because we Latin people are now an important intersection where we’re accepting and embracing that we’re indigenous and our Afro-Latinidad just now, we’re starting to come to terms with that and loving it as opposed to running from it, hating ourselves, despising ourselves. That was from colonial times, but here we are back in the ’50s where this guy thinks if he can pass for white, if he is the best guy at his job, that they’re going to love him and accept him. And obviously, they don’t.”

Roger’s pursuit of the dream proves destructive and difficult, not only to watch but to act as well. “It’s really difficult,” Leguizamo said. “You have to go to places that are very uncomfortable within yourself and you have to be willing to live with it for the duration of the shoot. And then I can totally let it go…If you really want to give it the value, you have to be there and willing to feel those horrible feelings.”

“It’s kind of brutal, but you got to do it for the work,” he continued. “Then when you see the product, you go, ‘Oh wow, that’s amazing.’ I mean, I don’t need people to like me in this role. That’s not what I want. I want it to be understood how a person becomes this vile and twisted.”

Leguizamo also explained that Latinos are rarely present in certain period pieces, and he was happy to take part in crafting a series with Latinos based in the 1950s: “When I saw ‘Mad Men,’ I loved it so much, but I hated it so much because there was not one Latin person. I’ll go, ‘Wait, New York in the ’60s, are you kidding me? We were all over the fucking place. Didn’t you see ‘West Side Story?’ [In ‘The Green Veil’] we had a chance in the ’50s to have Latin people in it. It was incredible to rewrite and do right that we were there. We’ve been here.”

Speaking to that erasure, Rappaport explained that despite Leguizamo’s long tenure in the entertainment industry and celebrated past — the actor has won Emmy and Tony awards — pitching the series was still difficult. “This project was something that we worked on, we pitched, but it’s impossible to get something like this greenlit or to even finesse a pitch in the room,” Rappaport said. “We had to literally start a new network for this show to make it to screen and hopefully find the right audience.”

“The Green Veil” premieres April 30, and the first two episodes are available to watch right now on The Network, a free streaming service created by Rappaport. Watch the full conversation above.

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