In 2018, acclaimed Broadway and film actor John Leguizamo kicked off an exploration of Latino history in his Tony-nominated play Latin History for Morons, cramming 3,000 years of history into a 90-minute one man show. Now, following his triumphant Broadway run, and prompted by a quest to discover lost Latino heroes throughout history, Leguizamo sets out on his most ambitious journey yet in the new three-part documentary series, American Historia. Co-created by Leguizamo and award-winning filmmaker Ben DeJesus, who also serves as director, The WNET Group, Latino Public Broadcasting and Latino digital media and entertainment company NGL Collective are collaborating to produce the series. A co-presentation of The WNET Group and Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES, American Historia is set to premiere nationwide on September 19 at 9pm ET on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org and the PBS App.
Leguizamo’s work preparing for Latin History for Morons produced an obsession with reading and researching the history of the Americas. His frustration over the whitewashing of American history, coupled with his nature as a curious student of the world, resulted in a passion not quelled by his 400+ performances of the show on Broadway and beyond. American Historia takes Leguizamo’s passion from the stage and puts him on the road on a chronological journey traveling throughout Mexico and the U.S. to shed light on both the known and lesser-known stories of Latino history.
Inspired by Leguizamo’s own multi-faceted style, each episode will combine cultural travel segments as well as entertaining interstitials, unveiling Leguizamo’s passionate revelations about his favorite Latino figures. The cultural segments will feature visits to historical sites as well as interviews with notable historians and Latino cultural figures. Locations and interviewees to be announced at a later date.
“Through this series, it’s our mission to continue celebrating the incredible contributions that Latinas and Latinos have made to this country and beyond that have often been left off the pages of history. We’re excited to bring the stories of so many of our unsung heroes to life in a way that’s never been done before, said Ben DeJesus. “For John and myself, we couldn’t have found better partners for this journey than the tremendous teams at WNET, PBS, CPB, ITVS and Latino Public Broadcasting.”
“We’re delighted to be working again with John Leguizamo and filmmaker Ben DeJesus on this eye-opening new series,” says Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and executive producer of VOCES. “John’s enthusiasm for educating audiences about the amazing breadth of Latino history and his distinctive style – irreverent, passionate, curious – makes this unique new series really come alive. We’re pleased to work again with our colleagues at WNET on this special joint venture.”
“We’re pleased to partner with John Leguizamo, Ben DeJesus, Latino Public Broadcasting and NGL Collective to bring American Historia to viewers nationwide,” said Lesley Norman, executive producer for The WNET Group. “It is a hallmark of our mission to present trusted, thorough, and thought-provoking content that champions understanding through education. We are honoured to spotlight the stories of Latino gamechangers and pillars of culture that are often left out of American history textbooks.”
American Historia is a production of The WNET Group, Latino Public Broadcasting and NGL Collective. For The WNET Group: Lesley Norman is Executive Producer and Stephen Segaller is Executive-in-Charge. For NGL: John Leguizamo, Ben DeJesus, and Jill Krikorian are Executive Producers. For Latino Public Broadcasting: Sandie Viquez Pedlow is Executive Producer. Donald Thoms is Executive Producer.
Funding for American Historia is provided by PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Anderson Family Charitable Fund, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Latino Pubic Broadcasting, ITVS and Seton J. Melvin.
About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the nonprofit parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; and ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider. The WNET Group also operates NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network, and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight Newswith Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. Community-supported, The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.
Produced by Latino Public Broadcasting, the acclaimed PBS documentary series VOCES features the best of Latino arts, culture and history and shines a light on current issues that impact Latino Americans. Devoted to exploring the rich diversity of the Latino experience, VOCES presents new and established filmmakers and brings their powerful and illuminating stories to a national audience — on TV, online and on the PBS app. VOCES is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Luis Ortiz is series producer; Sandie Viquez Pedlow is executive producer. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
About Latino Public Broadcasting
Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is the leader in the development, production, acquisition and distribution of film and digital cultural media that is representative of Latino people or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to public broadcasting stations and other public media entities. Providing a voice for the diverse Latino community throughout the United States, Latino Public Broadcasting is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. LPB also produces the acclaimed PBS documentary series VOCES, exploring the rich diversity of the Latino experience. VOCES presents new and established filmmakers and brings their powerful and illuminating stories to a national audience — on TV, online and on the PBS app.
Between 2009 and 2022, LPB programs won over 135 awards, including three prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards as well as Emmys, Imagen Awards and the Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Director, Documentary. LPB has been the recipient of the Norman Lear Legacy Award and the NCLR Alma Award for Special Achievement – Year in Documentaries. Sandie Viquez Pedlow is executive director of LPB; Edward James Olmos is co-founder and chairman.
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature, and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’s broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’s premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math, and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV — including a 24/7 channel — online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps, and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.