Luis Guzmán is a Puerto Rican actor. Known for his long and distinguished career that includes mostly character roles, the actor has managed to make a mark for himself in the industry. Though he was initially not interested in acting, he later pursued the craft as a hobby and became an active street theater artist. Luis’s life changed after an old friend of his asked him to audition for an upcoming TV series. The project later resulted in 'Miami Vice,' and Luis earned a significant role in it. This paved his path to the mainstream industry. Even though for a significant number of years in his career, Luis has played thugs, sidekicks, and police officers, he earned a few lead parts and roles with relatively longer screen presence later. In addition to Luis's acting skills, his brooding expression makes him noticeable even if he plays brief roles. As he moved further toward the mainstream industry, Luis became a favorite of film directors Steven Soderbergh and Paul Thomas Anderson, who later played a crucial role in shaping his career. In his formative years, Luis mostly appeared in TV productions. He also played varied characters in his initial days. However, as the 1990s progressed, the actor gained prominence in the film fraternity and appeared in movies of a range of genres, including a few romantic comedies. Luis has earned a few awards and nominations for his remarkable work in the industry. In addition to acting, the actor has experimented with film production, too.
Childhood & Early Life
Luis was born on August 28, 1956, in Cayey, Puerto Rico, to Rosa, a hospital worker. His stepfather, Benjamin Cardona, worked as a TV repairman. Luis grew up in New York City's Greenwich Village and the surrounding Lower East Side neighborhood.
After graduating from 'City College,' Luis began working as a youth counselor at the 'Henry Street Settlement House,' a socio-cultural center on the Lower East Side. Additionally, he performed at the 'Nuyorican Poets Cafe,' where he often met Cuban actor and playwright Miguel Piñero. Luis then became serious toward the craft and began participating in street theater. He soon earned his debut mainstream role.
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Luis started his journey as an actor with a minor role of a prisoner in the 1977 film 'Short Eyes,' which was based on Miguel Piñero's play of the same name. However, he did not get any project until 1983, when he appeared in the relatively notable role of ‘Jose’ in 'Variety.'
Two years later, Luis made his TV debut in a guest appearance in the 'CBS' crime drama 'The Equalizer.' The same year, he appeared in two episodes of another crime drama, 'Miami Vice.'
After numerous brief appearances in series and films, Luis’s hard work and persistence paid off when he received accolades for the 1997 drama film 'Boogie Nights.' He played a nightclub owner named ‘Maurice TT Rodriguez’ in the film and shared the 'Florida Film Critics Circle Award' with the cast of the film. Luis also shared a 'Screen Actors Guild Award' nomination with the ensemble cast.
In 1998, Luis began his run in the 'HBO' drama 'Oz,' which featured him as ‘Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez’ in 12 episodes. He earned an 'Independent Spirit Award' ‘Best Supporting Male Actor’ nomination for playing ‘Eduardo Roel’ in the 1999 crime film 'The Limey.'
Luis appeared as ‘Lance’ in the 2002 romantic comedy–drama 'Punch-Drunk Love,’ for which he received the 'Imagen Award' for the ‘Best Supporting Actor.’ He won the same award in the ‘Best Actor’ category for playing the lead, ‘Ismael,’ in the 2007 Puerto Rican film 'Maldeamores' (English title: 'Lovesickness').
In 2008, Luis was featured in a light-hearted short titled 'I Kicked Luis Guzman in the Face.' Unfortunately, the film was banned in 147 countries, as the plot was perceived to be offensive to a certain group of people.
Luis earned a prominent TV role, as ‘Rene Calderon,’ in 16 episodes of the comedy–drama 'How to Make It in America.' His performance in the comic character earned him a 'NAMIC Visions' award. He has lent his voice to a few films, too. Luis voiced the character ‘Chucho’ in the 2008 family comedy 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua,' ‘Angelo’ in 'Turbo' (2013), and the late professional baseball player Lefty Gomez in the 2014 American animated drama film 'Henry & Me.'
Luis was nominated for the ‘ALMA Award' for the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for his performance in the 2009 action thriller 'The Taking of Pelham 123.' The film featured him as a hijacker named ‘Phil Ramos.’ The character was initially named ‘Harold Longman,’ previously portrayed by ‘Martin Balsam’ in the 1974 version and by ‘Richard Schiff’ in 1998.
In between working for films and TV, Luis made a few music video appearances, too. He was part of 'Gorilla' by Bruno Mars and '1-800-273-8255’ by Logic. The actor has also worked in a number of TV movies. Some of them are 'Quiet Killer,' 'In The Shadow of a Killer,' 'Innocent Blood,' 'Double Deception,' 'The Burning Season,' 'On Seventh Avenue,' 'Pronto,' 'Counter Culture,' and 'Thin Air.'
He served as the executive producer in two films: the 2015 comedy 'Puerto Ricans in Paris' (in which he also had a starring role) and the unreleased action comedy 'Aztec Warrior.' He played the titular role in the latter.
Luis played the recurring role of ‘Jesse Salander’ in the 'CBS' medical drama 'Code Black.' He essayed the role in 47 episodes, and that has been his longest association with any TV series. He portrayed José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, a Colombian drug lord and one of the leaders of the infamous 'Medellín Cartel,' who worked with the popular drug mafia lord Pablo Escobar, in the 'Netflix' series 'Narcos.' The series was based on the life of Pablo. Luis’s character was introduced in the first season of the series.
Family & Personal Life
Luis is married to Angelita Galarza-Guzman and has six children: Cemi Guzman, Yoruba Briggs-Guzman, Yemaya Briggs-Guzman, Luna Guzman, Jace O'Flynn Guzman, and Margarita Briggs-Guzman. He lives in Sutton, Vermont.
Luis was involved in the promotional campaign for Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 US presidential run.
The talented actor is a multilingual and can speak more than 70 languages fluently. Interestingly, Spanish is not one of them. Luis was offered to be part of 'Most Interesting Man in the World,' an advertising campaign for 'Dos Equis' beer. He turned down the offer, saying he "doesn't do biopics."
Luis had also rejected Steven Spielberg when he had approached him for playing Abraham Lincoln in 'Lincoln.' He recommended Daniel Day-Lewis for the role instead.
The famous 'Saturday Night Live' sketch for 'Bill Brasky' was created for Luis. A talented footballer, too, he won the 'Heisman Trophy' in 1977.
Luis has not watched any of his movies since 1982.