Luis Guzmán | A Stranger in the Kingdom
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a Puerto Rico-born, New York City-bred movie star, but character actor Luis Guzmán, with more than 50 movie roles to his credit, isn’t the type to conform to expectations
Standing Out and Fitting In
Our family, we make up a hundred percent of the minorities in the town, you know what I’m saying? The locals treat me great. I’ve had some issues with my children; my youngest son had to deal with some racial stuff, which we have addressed. We raised our children in such a way that they don’t see that, unless other people make an issue of it. Vermont is pretty much a white state, but there’s a lot of progressive people, too. It’s a whole different head up here. Republican or conservative up here is not like a conservative Republican from the South. People, they coexist up here pretty well.
What’s the Harm in Looking?
When I got married, we came up for a vacation and my wife decided to go into a real estate agency out of curiosity, just to look around. Next thing you know, we bought our first little house on two, three acres. It was our weekend spot. We loved it so much, one year we just said, “You know what? I don’t see us raising our children in an apartment in the city.” And here we are.
Down on the Farm
We have 337 acres, five kids, six horses right now. My wife’s actually the one who got me into horses. She’s the one responsible for me getting kicked, stepped on, spit on. It’s more my children and my wife that ride. I’m like a mucking specialist.
The Glamorous Life
I get up about 5:30, start waking little people up at 6:00, make breakfast, get ‘em off to school by 7:00. Then I come out and feed horses. Then I clean the kitchen and do some paperwork, some reading, start getting dinner ready, help people with homework assignments, hang out with the dogs, go on a walk. Whatever is happening at the moment, that’s what I do. I just kinda hang out up on my farm. It keeps me young — the air is fresh. I’m a homebody; I love bein’ home. If I could stay home the rest of my life, I would.
A Star Is Born
The way I got my first job in the industry was a total fluke. I’m walking down the street on the Lower East Side, and I run into [playwright] Miguel Piñero. He was writing for Miami Vice and he said, “Hey, here’s a number. Call up and see if you can get a part.” I go in, make a phone call. They say, “Yeah sure, come.” I waited three hours to see a casting director to tell her three lines. Can’t mess up three lines, right? And she goes, “Kill me with your eyes.” And I go, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” She goes, “Kill me with your eyes.” I go, “You mean, like, give you a mean look?” She goes, “Yeah.” I give her a mean look; she says, “Thank you.” I walk out of there thinking, These people are out of their minds. I get a call a week later: “The producers and director would like to meet you.” I go in; these guys have me read, ask me to step out. The director steps out. He goes, “I gotta ask you something — do you ever smile?” I smile, and he says, “There you go. Thank you.” I think, This is getting weirder and weirder. A week later, I get a phone call: “Hey, my name is Richard so and so — I’m your agent. You just got a three-week gig on Miami Vice.” If it had been my first and last job ever, I would have been happy. All I wanted to get out of it was enough money so I could buy me a used car and drive to the beach on the weekend. That’s all that I wanted.
Best Man for the Job
A character actor is like a handyman. You know, a handyman can do any job: He can paint for you, he can put doors up, he can mow the lawn for you. A leading actor, he can give you the estimate and that’s it. One thing that I don’t do is act. I just put myself in that situation and I say, “Today I’m a forensics expert. Tomorrow I’m a DEA agent. Tomorrow I’m a New York City detective. Tomorrow I’m a father of a teenager. Tomorrow I’m lookin’ for lost treasures in the Mediterranean.”
To Build a Fire
Nobody thought I would ever survive living in the country. They thought it was a joke when we first moved up here. “Oh, we’re gonna have to come up in April and May and thaw you out. I’m gonna find you in a block of ice.” I never ended up in a block of ice, but I’ll tell you what — the one thing we had to learn real quick about living up here? Gotta make a fire real quick if you have to. I think I spent six months suffering from smoke inhalation. Now it’s like, you give me whatever and I’ll make a fire for you. Just give me a match and two sticks and a little paper and I’ll get it going.
Hollywood or the Northeast Kingdom
You kidding me? Beverly Hills ain’t got nothin’ on me right now. This is my Beverly Hills.
On Chelsea the Horse
Watch it, she bites like a pit bull.