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John Leguizamo is getting real about his breakout film nearly 30 years later.
The Emmy Award winner, 62, described working alongside Al Pacino in 1993's Carlito's Way as "an odd experience" during an interview with Insider, as his costar was a white actor playing a Puerto Rican character.
"You know, it was a thing of the times. Before then he played a Cuban," Leguizamo said of Pacino's 1983 film Scarface. "Yeah, in that he's kind of doing like a Cuban/Mexican accent."
In Carlito's Way, Pacino played ex-con Carlito Brigante, who intends to go straight after getting out of prison, but he gets caught up in the shady dealings of his friend Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn).
"I know he's trying and he's a great actor, so brilliant, he was my hero. But it was odd, man. It's an odd experience to be a Latin man in a Latin story written by a Latin man and the lead guy's a white guy pretending to be Puerto Rican. I'm not going to lie, it's surreal. It was surreal," he added.
Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection
Leguizamo said he "turned the part down a few times" of gangster Benny Blanco, which ended up being his breakout role, adding: "And then eventually I decided to do it."
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"It's just Hollywood was weird and it's always been weird," he explained. "It has always been 'Holly-wouldn't.' And I knew this going in."
The To Wong Foo star has long been outspoken about representation in media, boycotting the 72nd Emmy Awards in 2020 over the lack of Latinx nominees and opening up about his experience navigating Hollywood as a person of color.
Most recently, he's called out the casting news of James Franco as Fidel Castro and Chris Pratt as Mario, after his colorblind casting as Italian video game character Luigi in 1993's Super Mario Bros., alongside the late Bob Hoskins as his brother Mario.
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Leguizamo previously spoke to PEOPLE about the struggles actors of color face in Hollywood as he made his directorial debut with Critical Thinking.
"I mean, we're less than 1% of the stories told by Hollywood and streaming media and networks when we're almost 20% of the population, 25% of the U.S. box office," Leguizamo said in 2020. "I just feel like it's such a damage to kids not to see themselves reflected back in positive ways."