Guillermo Diaz: Pinup Boy
BY Ari Karpel
April 24 2012 1:00 AM ET
And at least he’s not another drug dealer. Not that the 41-year-old regrets having played one on Weeds, but as a Latino actor, Díaz finds the majority of roles he reads are for some sort of dealer, thug, or killer. But the character Guillermo — who Díaz says was not named for him, as many people assume—was a brute, a drug trafficker who thinks with his groin and boasts of his conquests.
“It was so separate from me,” recalls Díaz, who hasn’t been on the show for the last two seasons. There’s a chance he’ll return for the upcoming final year. “I hope so. Playing that character and knowing that people were liking and accepting me as that sort of cocky, sexual dude — it gave me a little bit of confidence.”
And yet it didn’t expel what lingered in his head from childhood. “I think the shit that you go through as a kid is so ingrained in your head,” says Díaz, who, like so many young gay kids, was mocked relentlessly. “I guess I was a little bit effeminate, so kids would call me ‘faggot’ all the time. But everybody goes through that shit.”
Getting mocked was the least of his concerns growing up in Washington Heights, his neighborhood at the northern tip of Manhattan. “It was the ’80s, it was a fucked-up neighborhood,” says Díaz, who commuted to a Catholic school in the Bronx. “That was even worse. There were drug dealers on the corner. We would get mugged on the bus to school.”
In his sophomore year of high school, Díaz and a couple friends did a medley of Beastie Boys songs in a talent show, and suddenly some of his tormentors became fans. “I thought, Oh, shit, acting is what’s making people like me.” After graduation he started to pursue acting as a career, getting his feet wet with extra work and student films, and by joining Labyrinth, the theater company cofounded by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Soon Díaz was finding work in the newly emergent independent film scene, sharing the screen with Lili Taylor in 1996’s Girls Town and playing a drag queen in 1995’s Stonewall. He did a lot of gay press interviews for that film, and he had no problem coming out.