In the Winter 2013-14 edition of Vermont Life, Melissa Pasanen interviewed actor Luis Guzmán about social work, Hollywood, skiing misadventures and parenthood. Here are a few questions that didn’t make it into the print interview due to space limitations.
VL: From Boogie Nights to the cult television show, Community, your list of credits is renowned for its length and diversity. Are there any projects that really stand out?
LG: Early on, I did a movie with Sidney Lumet called Family Business. It was two days’ work. I had one scene with Dustin Hoffman. I grew up 10 years in the business just from that one scene with Dustin. Sidney whispered in my ear, “Hey kid, I really like you, and I’m doing another movie in the spring.” So I did Q & A with Nick Nolte, Timothy Hutton and Armand Assante, and it was the first time that I was in the movie from beginning to end, my first true character movie. Sidney gave me my shot. From there on, my roles became more significant. I did Carlito’s Way, which really blew me up. To this day people think my name is Pachanga, the character’s name.
VL: If Rusty DeWees ran for Governor, would you consider a run against him?
LG: Yes. My platform would be maple syrup and wood chips for all ― and less wind turbines.
VL: What doors has your acting career opened ― and has it shut any?
LG: I have had the most incredible life. And I’m talking about before becoming an actor. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. This man that used to work with Sidney [Lumet], one of his assistant directors, he once said to me, “Your life is your reference.” And that to this day has stuck to me.
When I worked for the Henry Street Settlement, my thing was a program called Job Shop. I had two weeks to prepare young people for a job interview. I used to always ask: “Who are you? Where are you going? And how are you going to get there?” And I come to find out ― these kids who were high school dropouts, teen parents, some had had brushes with drugs, alcoholism or the law ― nobody had ever asked them these questions. To this day, it was probably the best job I ever had because I was in a position to help people help themselves.
As an actor, I’ve gotten to see the world, meet people, experience things that normal people don’t: learning forensics, shooting firearms, hanging out with cops, getting into helicopters, going to A-list parties. You get a lot of access to stuff. But I’ve always believed that one of the biggest and most important things is having the opportunity to give back. I’m in a position that I can make a difference. I went homeless for three days in New York City and we made a movie. We’ve been showing it around the country, raising awareness and money for homeless shelters. That’s part of my roots. That’s part of my foundation. I still consider myself an activist.
VL: Do you feel a responsibility to the Latino community to be a role model and to avoid stereotypical characters?
LG: I don’t consider myself a role model for Latinos. I consider myself a role model for the universe. And I don’t think I do stereotypical roles. You know, so much has changed. The American fabric has changed. Being Latino is not taboo in this country anymore.
VL: I hear you’re a great cook. What’s your favorite food and what do you like to cook for your family?
LG: I like cheddar cheese with garlic in it, roasted garlic. And of course, I love my maple syrup, and I love fresh, sweet summer corn. I always cook Thanksgiving dinner. I make a Puerto Rican turkey. I garlic it all up and stuff it with sofrito, a Puerto Rican condiment. And then I just baste that baby with fresh garlic. Then I make arroz con gandules [rice and pigeon peas] and pasteles, like tamales but Puerto Rican. And I make baked fresh apple pie, from scratch, with butter.