Born in Puerto Rico, but a New York City kid through and through who grew up in Chelsea, the South Bronx and West Village before his family settled on the Lower East Side, Luis Guzmán has compiled a mind-boggling array of film credits. With a resumé that kicks off with a role as a prisoner in the 1977 film adaptation of friend/Loisada resident Miguel Piñero’s Short Eyes, Guzmán has made his mark on television and film with a work ethic and knack for landing roles only rivaled by Samuel Jackson.
Currently playing Mikey O’Shea on Showtime’s Shameless, the self-described social activist saw the past two years overflowing with opportunities ranging from 2018 roles in the Canadian drama The Padre and the French police comedy Belleville Cop to notching work with a pair of 2019 Epix series—Godfather of Harlem and Perpetual Grace, LTD. The Vermont resident shares some of his favorite projects below.
“I would have to say my first favorite role was in Q&A, because I learned so much from Sidney Lumet. Seeing him work through his process of making and shooting a movie was very eye-opening for me.”
Boogie Nights (1997)
“I loved shooting Boogie Nights with Paul Thomas Anderson and seeing his process and the incredible story he put down on paper and what he did with that cast.”
Carlito’s Way (1993)
“I grew up with those characters. I’ve seen those guys. I rolled with those guys and I wanted to be those guys. Then I ended up getting that role of Pachanga. You get to work with someone iconic that you worked with your whole life like Al Pacino. That’s the dude from Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico. He was a badass.”
“I thought the cast was great, along with the brilliance of Soderbergh and it was such an incredible script that we worked with. I got to play with my boy Don Cheadle in that. Our scene was pretty effortless, but so brutally honest.”
The Limey (1999)
“The way Soderbergh shot that movie [was crazy] and it was excellent how the story and lines jumped out at you with those characters.”
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
“That was another plum movie for me. And I got to watch Adam Sandler out of his element. The first time I saw Punch-Drunk Love, five minutes into the movie, you forget it’s Adam Sandler because you really felt for this guy. I think that’s genius—when a director and actor do that.”
Maldeamores [Lovesickness] (2007)
“I did this small project which was a Puerto Rican movie shot in Puerto Rico, all in Spanish. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’re missing out so much. What was beautiful about that movie is that it was about our costumbres and love. It’s generational—it’s three different movies that go into one so to speak. It’s just about love and everything that can go wrong and right at the same time. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever done.”
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
“Having the opportunity to do a period piece and to work with Kevin Reynolds, who I think did an incredible job directing that movie, was a real privilege. Guy Pearce and Jim Caviezel were excellent. It was such a beautiful movie and how they showed how to get revenge in such a beautiful and passionate way. It was a great experience. I love that cast. I got to play Jacopo and people always stop to talk to me about that role.”
Perpetual Grace, LTD (2019)
“This show is on the Epix Network. I got to work with these incredible guys named Steve Conrad and Bruce Terris. They created and wrote the show. What I really dug about the show is that it took me to a whole different level that really challenged me. These guys write poetically, like f****** Shakespeare, but it’s a modern-day version. When you get to work opposite Sir Ben Kingsley, that’s not too bad. Again, I got to work with some great creators and incredible actors—Ben Kingsley, Jacki Weaver, Jimmi Simpson—a whole bunch of these cats, man.”
Read LIW‘s full interview with Luis Guzman.