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I first remember seeing Guillermo Díaz as “Scarface” from the movie Half Baked. His character was a stereotypical stoner, but his performance was hilarious and memorable. Even though the movie was more of a cult classic, it bolstered Díaz’s acting career. Díaz has been frequently typecast in roles such as thugs, drug dealers, and drug addicts, but he’s also shown his versatility by portraying a drag queen, a nurse, and most recently a former black ops agent and assassin.
Díaz grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan and is of Cuban descent. His parents only speak Spanish, so Díaz and his brothers learned English by watching T.V. and going to school. He attended Catholic school at St. Nicholas of Tolentine and first got interested in acting by performing at the school’s talent show. For his act, Díaz and a couple of his friends lip synched songs by the Beastie Boys. He later performed in school film, plays, and indie films before joining a theater company called INTAR, now known as Labyrinth.
Outside the realm of acting, Díaz had to deal with the harsh reality of his environment. His school was near a rough and violent neighborhood, and he was mugged on numerous occasions. At one point he was even pistol-whipped which left a permanent scar on his head. As he told Out, an LGBT magazine, “I went to school in the Bronx. I learned to constantly try to cover up the fact that I was gay. That façade of being somebody I’m really not just to protect myself definitely helped with acting.”
While Díaz initially had to hide his sexuality as a means of survival, he’s been openly gay his entire professional career. When he first broke into the film industry, his managers did not want him to disclose his sexuality. However, he refused to stay in the closet, even at the risk of potentially restricting his acting opportunities. “I guess I was always out. I never even thought about trying,” Díaz explained to NewNowNext.com, the blogsite of LGBT network Logo. “I mean, I did think about it, because there were always managers and sh** wanting me to stay in the closet, and I was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I’m out.’ I’ve just always been myself […] Everybody knows my boyfriend. And I work all the time. I play straight guys. I play mean guys. I think people make more of a thing about it if you’re sort of mysterious and you don’t want to talk about it and you’re in the closet, then it becomes more a thing.”
Díaz’s first major role was as La Miranda, a drag queen in the 1995 film Stonewall. This role was particularly important to Díaz because he was able to completely and authentically immerse himself in the role. “The role I’m most proud of is La Miranda in Stonewall,” Díaz told Latino culture magazine Simply Latino! “It was such an amazing experience working on this film. It feels good to have a film that really is important for people to see, especially young gay people, so they can see what a long road it’s been to have the freedoms that we have today, although we still have a long way to go.”
Díaz would later go on to star in Half Baked and make guest appearances on Chappelle’s Show. His next major role was as drug trafficker Guillermo García Gómez on the Showtime series Weeds. At the time, this was Díaz’s most gritty and violent portrayal, but he embraced the role nonetheless. “I always get a kick out of being cast in those roles,” he explained to Out. “Guillermo on Weeds is hardcore—trafficking young girls for prostitution, weapons, [and] heroin. And I’m so the opposite: a big old nerd.” Díaz also portrayed Nurse Ángel García on the short-lived medical drama Mercy. He later played a Latino gangster in the 2010 film Cop Out.
Since 2012, Díaz has portrayed Diego Muñoz, a.k.a. “Huck” on Scandal. Huck is volatile, sadistic, and complex at the same time which has allowed Díaz to showcase his acting range with one character. The show has been a critical success and won several awards including the Favorite Drama Series during the TV Guide Awards in 2013 and TV Program of the Year in 2014 from the AFI Awards. Díaz was nominated for Best Actor in Television during the Imagen Foundation Awards in 2013 and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2014 and 2015 during the Image Awards.
Guillermo Díaz’s ability to seamlessly shift between comedic and serious roles is impressive. His integrity is equally impressive because he never once compromised his identity. With the sustained success of Scandal, Díaz’s popularity is continuing to grow, and he’s sure to get even more acting opportunities in the future.