EXCLUSIVE: Laz Alonso on Being Latino & Black in Hollywood

In the romantic comedy Jumping the Broom (opening in theaters nationwide today), Cuban actor Laz Alonso, 37, plays an African American character in an all-black cast that includes Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Loretta Devine, Mike Epps, and Romeo.

 “I always like to say that whether you’re African American, Afro-Jamaican, Afro-Haitian, Afro-British, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Panamanian, whatever — black is black,” Alonso says. "We all came from Africa and we all ended up in different countries all over the world, but the root of the tree is stil black — period. This division that we’ve created by identifying what kind of Black you are, I think, is stupid. I’m no less black than an African American when it comes to playing an African American role, because my roots are from Africa and I was born and raised in America," he adds. 

Laz, who says that being both Cuban and black has helped him get more roles in his career, says he's proud to be black and proud to be Latino. "I have a Cuban influence from my ethnicity, so I feel 100 percent Cuban and 100 percent Black and nobody can take that away from me," he says. "For me, playing an African American role is playing myself and playing a Latino role — I’m playing myself,” he explains.

What's harder for Laz, he says, is playing Latinos who aren't Cuban. “It’s more difficult for me to play a Dominican or a Puerto Rican than it is to play African American because now I have to step outside of my Cuban comfort zone and play something that I’m not,” he explains. 

To understand how much Laz embraces both the black and Latino in him, the actor says all you have to do is take a listen to his iPod. “In my iPod playlist, you’re going to hear just as much salsa and merengue as you’re going to hear hip-hop. But one doesn’t outweigh the other and one doesn’t define me more than the other,” he explains.  

Well said, Laz!