Laz Alonso talks being Black before Cuban-American, Latinos reeducating themselves and Black Lives Matter
REVOLT spoke with actor Laz Alonso about Black Lives Matter, his new “The Boys” show, its parallels with the issues impacting Black America today, Afro-Latino culture and more. Read here!
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Laz Alonso is more than just an actor. The Afro-Cuban star has come a long way since his days as an investment banker on Wall Street and is now addressing the narrative of diverse representation of Black culture. A vocal activist who proudly discusses race and social injustice — no matter the platform — the Howard University graduate does not hold back on issues impacting the Black and brown community.
REVOLT spoke with Alonso about Black Lives Matter, his new “The Boys” show, its parallels with the issues impacting Black America today, Afro-Latino culture and more. Read the chat below!
What is your new show “The Boys” about?
Basically, “The Boys” is a superhero cinematic universe a la Marvel and DC Comics. However, our superheroes are far from perfect the way those are. They have powers, they have superhuman strength, and on the surface, they technically appear to be there to save humanity. But, they’re flawed just like humans are. They suffer from jealousy, envy; they do drugs, some are porn addicts, some are sex addicts, they break the law… some are racist. If you could think of human beings exactly as they are, but with superpowers, that’s the world that we’re living in in “The Boys.”
Now, my character, he’s a member of The Boys. You got the “Supes,” which are the superheroes, and the top seven superheroes in the world got this thing called The Seven — kind of like The Avengers or Justice League. Technically, we’re the heroes of the show, but in the show, they consider us almost like terrorists, resistants, antiheroes. We’re basically trying to expose them to the rest of the world and if we can, take ‘em down.
How would you say this is relevant to the current issues that are impacting Black and brown communities?
Well, one of our Supes is an undercover Nazi. One of our Supes is a racist who is trying to eliminate people of color and the relevance by sowing fear into not just the general public, but also within each other and the ranks of the superheroes. She’s trying to get them to buy into her mentality and philosophy. A lot of what you’re gonna see in this season of “The Boys” is gonna be very reflective of what we’ve been seeing in the last few months happening in the streets here all over the country, and really all over the world. It’s crazy that we shot this last year. We shot it July of last year to November and now that it’s about to come out, you’re gonna think that we shot it in the last three or four months of COVID[-19] because it echoes a lot of the racial unrest, a lot of the systemic discrimination that exists, and abuse of power.
How do you believe Hollywood is doing when it comes to more diverse representation in sci-fi and action movies?
I wasn’t always in Hollywood. I was also in corporate America before transitioning completely over to this business. I think Hollywood is on the forefront of the movement to be honest with you [and] as far as I’ve seen with seeing people of color not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera in C-Suites. The president of ABC is a Black woman. Seeing people like Issa Rae, Donald Glover, Jordan Peele, Charles King, Deon Taylor — there’s so many people of our hue that are telling our narrative and not just shooting someone else’s opinion or version of who we are as a people. We’re, actually now more than ever, in the driver’s seat of telling these stories.
You look at something like a Black Panther and who could’ve told that story better than Ryan Coogler? He was able to take all the nuance, all the pain and those conversations that only we have amongst each other and translate it in a very real conversation in this made-up world of Wakanda, but it was very on-point and very timely. When you have people that look like you and that are like you telling this story, they’re able to bring out a lot more of the authenticity behind it. It’s no accident why some of the best gangster movies and Italian stories were told by Italian directors and acted by Italian actors. In our situation, it’s no different. When we have Black people writing the stories, producing the stories, directing the stories, acting in the stories, you’re gonna get a more culturally relevant take.
Who are some of your superheroes during this time in the Black Lives Matter movement?
I’ve become a fan of Tamika Mallory. I had seen her face before and heard her speak on YouTube, but I didn’t follow her movement on a day-to-day basis and I felt like it was important for me. There are people who live this, who really truly ride or die for this movement, who are not just protesting today because it’s the time to protest George Floyd and then tomorrow they’re back to putting up pictures of their vacation in Cancun. There are some people who live this every single day and don’t take time off. For me, it was important to know what they’re doing in between the protests and how I can lend either a voice, support, or a retweet. How can I stay engaged with those that are on the frontlines after we hold up the signs and we go home? I’m a huge fan of hers. She’s very personal with her lives, and brings you into some of the conversations that are happening as to dealing with a lot of things that we don’t see on a day-to-day basis. If it’s not on the news, we don’t see it.
I’ve become a fan of Mysonne. I thought he was just a music artist, but he’s been tremendously active on the frontlines. Also, Trae The Truth down in Houston. This guy never stops from not only a beat Black Lives Matter perspective, but stand up for Breonna Taylor and that her murderers get charged and arrested. With hurricane season, Trae is out there literally saving people and purchasing vehicles that can get into swamp lands and places with water, delivering water and food. I mean, there’s so many young Black faces that are either on the frontlines or somehow giving back right now that it gives me hope because that next generation of leadership is really putting in the work and they’re being extremely effective.
I’m a big fan also of Eboni K. Williams on “REVOLT BLACK NEWS.” She’s a powerhouse and I’ve learned a lot just listening to her breakdown politics in general because we as a community are brand new to this and we’re still learning. We know that you want us to vote for president, but there are so many other jobs that affect us on a day-to-day basis that we don’t vote for and we don’t know who to vote for and how to vote for. From state to local reps to congressmen to city council members, there are so many other positions that we still have not learned, “Okay, what does this person do that I feel on a day-to-day basis?” The president doesn’t do it all. I think there are some champions out there who are taking the education part of it and really breaking it down on a level that we can learn. That’s why I really like “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” that you guys launched. I hope it grows into a 24-hour news service because I think that’s something that’s absolutely lacking, but necessary in our community.
How do you feel society is doing when it comes to recognizing frontline workers as heroes?
I think we’re doing a horrible job as a society in really showing our frontline workers how much we really appreciate them and just having the courtesy to not question them. There’s been a tremendous amount of misinformation that every single day we’re being bombarded with whether it be on Instagram, on YouTube, on Facebook. There’s so much bad information out there that people aren’t even fact-checking. They just see it, read it and believe it. That’s putting our frontline workers’ lives on the line because now people aren’t respecting the fact that they’re putting their lives on the line every single day to save us and we’re complaining about putting on a mask or we’re questioning whether COVID is real or not, if there’s been this many deaths of COVID…
How does your Cuban-American background impact your involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement?
It doesn’t impact it anyway because I’m Black first. Cuban-American or Latin-American, that’s not a race; that’s an ethnicity. My race is Black. It don’t matter what country your Blackness is from. Just like Jacob Blake or George Floyd got taken out because of the color of their skin, any one of us can get the same treatment because of the color of our skin. Nothing should separate us when it comes to standing up for Black and brown justice. It don’t matter what ethnicity you are. Black and brown justice is ultimately what we should all be single mindedly after and achieving, and we can’t get there by thinking about what separates us. We can only get there by behaving based on what unites us, and that’s for all people of color.
Why do you believe there’s such a big debate on the definition of “Afro-Latino”?
If you understand the history of how Latin America was colonized, then you understand that this conversation was purposely clouded so that Afro-Latinos would not unite. Whereas in America, you have the one-drop rule. If you have one drop of African blood in you, you’re considered Black. You might be light-skinned Black, you might be dark-skinned Black, but you’re Black. Well, in Latin America, that rule never made it to Latin America. In Latin America, if you had some white in you and you were mixed, you were considered mulatto. So now they’ve created a whole different race — you’re not Black, you’re something other than Black — and it created a class system; whereas the closer to white you were, the higher up in the class system you were. Nobody wanted to be Black because that meant you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. There is a re-education that has to take place whereas Black people from all over Latin America understand that they are Black, you know? (laughs) If you want to call yourself mulatto, okay, but guess what? That means you’re still Black, you’re just a lighter version of Black.
It’s years and years, I’m talking hundreds of years, of a colonized mindset that has to be reeducated and that’s part of the beauty of the awakening that’s happening right now. A lot of people are now saying, “You know what? All this time I’ve been told I was this when all along, I was this and I am really this and I’m proud of being this.” I think that’s what’s happening right now is that a lot of Afro-Latinos are awakening. They’re dealing with an awakening of their Afro-Latino-ness and understanding that the stuff that their grandparents were told to believe was not true.
Would you say that may have impacted Latinx involvement in the Black Lives Matter conversation?
You know how when immigrants come to this country and they have to learn a certain amount of U.S. history in order to get their citizenship?
I believe that civil rights should be part of what they learn because if Latinos were to know — and not just Latinos; Asian-Americans, Indian-Americans, Russian-Americans, German-Americans. If every American immigrant that came here seeking nationalization and citizen status learned that the reason why they have equal rights is because of Black people and because of the Civil Rights Movement that Black people put their bodies and their children’s bodies in front of attack dogs, hoses, police clubs, police shields, bullets and all kinds of stuff; then I think that people would understand, respect and support the Black community a lot more.