'Last Man Standing's' Hector Elizondo Praises Tim Allen and Says He's Not A 'Latino Actor'

Last Man Standing Hector Elizondo Tim Allen 2

Tim Allen returns as Mike Baxter in “Last Man Standing” on FOX this fall, and so does veteran actor Hector Elizondo as Tim Allen’s boss on the sitcom. Mr. Elizondo tells CineMovie the seventh season picks up where it left off after being cancelled by ABC in 2016. The award-winning actor also reveals his secret to his longevity in the business and why he prefers not to use the label of “Latino actor.”

A native New Yorker, Hector Elizondo broke through as a stage actor on the New York stage with his portrayal of “God” in “Steambath” which earned him the prestigious Obie Award. He went on to critical-acclaim on Broadway with “Prisoner of Second Avenue,” “The Great White Hope” and Arthur Miller’s “The Prince.”

Many will also recognize him as a veteran television and feature film actor in PRETTY WOMAN, THE PRINCESS DIARIES, and countless television guest starring roles. Elizondo is back this Friday at 8pm on FOX as a “Last Man Standing” regular, and CineMovie chatted about the return of the sitcom, and what’s different or the same, as well as walk down memory lane on his long career.

CineMovie: You’ve been doing this for a very long time, tv and film...

Hector Elizondo: And theater… Most of my life was theater. I started... well I guess if you want to start from the inception I started before I was in the business and I started at 10 years of age, not professionally. I was just chosen to do a school play or to do a school musical because I could sing and all that for a musical.

CineMovie: Nice!

Hector: That’s when it started back in 1946, my dear.

CineMovie: Wow, how did you know you had the talent? Or did somebody discover you?

Hector: I never thought about it. I think I sang before I could talk, that was no big deal. It was in the family. As a matter of fact, for many years, I thought my last name was ‘Sing,' because when people came over to the house, my father would say Hector sing, so I thought, oh, that should be my full name, Hector Sing. So I never thought of that, it was just a lot of fun. But that was the indication that I was going in this direction, although I didn't want to. I wanted to be a baseball player. I wanted to be a cowboy. These are healthy things that kids of 10 years old would want to do in those days. I want to be a pilot and of course, I wanted to play with one of the New York baseball teams without a doubt but this was not in my plans. My first stage work was 1960 and I did stage all throughout until 1970 and I kept doing stage in between films. I go to a film or TV or I’d go back to the theater in New York, so that's, that's my training.

CineMovie: You also played music, I mean, you've pretty much done it all.

Hector: That’s what they tell me, I mean that’s why I am tired.

CineMovie: Are you picky with your roles now?

Hector: At this age, knock, knock, knock, I can be. I can be picky, although the pickings are slim. When you get to be, well 82, that's a couple of years. That’s a couple of threads on the tire, kiddo. One of those delightful things about having the opportunity of doing “Last Man Standing” which is the closest thing to theater, is one of the exciting aspects of it, that there's an audience for us and audiences participate. You get so juiced up in the performance and in the story and the family. That’s a delight but it's a very, very interesting thing to be given this opportunity to come back to do this family show, and to make it a theater experience, that only TV could do by the way. This is a multi camera show and that's a particular kind of creature. You don't do a tad many of them I understand, so my hats off to Fox… salute to them for being behind the show 100% . I'm very, very happy about that.

CineMovie: You film in front of an audience?

Hector: Of course! It is a live audience. This is a lot like theatre. We rehearse all week to do it Tuesday night and and that means we get a script every night from Wednesday morning until Tuesday night. The scenes keep changing, the writers work 24/7 to produce. Producers are on top it. It’s quite a team and the team hasn't changed. The players are essentially the same.

CineMovie: I’ve heard it’s pretty grueling, the TV schedule.

Hector: Yeah, it’s not as grueling as single camera but it can be. It can be especially for Mr. Allen who carries the weight of the show. He's never given enough credit for being a terrific actor. You know, he has wonderful timing and he likes things done well, to make sure the production is going the way it’s going. So he's very definite in the image of the show, what it’s supposed to be, so that makes life easier.

Last Man Standing Hector Elizondo Tim Allen

CineMovie: So the transition to FOX, does it still feel the same? Does it feel a little different or nothing has changed?

Hector: The audience is out there, the crew is the same, almost a 100%, the actors are almost the same, nearly 100%, the writers are almost the same. I mean FOX is very smart. This thing is a success. It never should have gone off the air. We are going to make sure it keeps on. We are going to make sure we give it the support it needs and that's what they're doing, so we are delighted with it.

CineMovie: What can we expect as far as your character?

Hector: He owns the place and he's very wealthy, owns a number of these stores. So it’s time for a life change. He’s thinking, ‘Let's see now, what do I do now with the rest of my life that has meaning as opposed to, you know… he's a marrying fool this character. He's always falling in love with women who cost him money afterward. He’s not lecherous, he’s too old for that. He never was but the way, he's a Vietnam vet. So he's had an interesting life. He’s quite eccentric. I'd like the character to look for how he can give back to society and how he can be part of an effort to bring more justice to America. I would delight in that and he's going to retire for a while. At least it seems like he's going to retire, but he doesn’t. He can’t retire.

CineMovie: That’s good; we need you on the show.

Hector: But you are going to see that he’s going to be hanging around the store a lot, because he can't leave the store even though he’s supposed to be retired. That's pretty funny, they came up with a twist there. I'm looking forward to this season. Who knows what’s going to happen to Ed Alzate.

CineMovie: Since you've done pretty much everything, which one do you get the most pleasure out of?

Hector: Well, I get pleasure out of having an audience, of course. That’s the thing. This show is pleasurable for that reason, especially when the script is right, when the pieces are right, when the cast is right, when the producers are right. If you're doing a single camera movie and the location is right, and the stories is right -it's a wonderful thing. It’s like symphony orchestra, and, it's a very special place to be. The only time it's not right is one of those, more than one of those factors are not in sync. This is not the right story, these shoes don’t fit, this is not the right place, this is not the right people. But otherwise it's a labor of love. That's all I can say. So I've been involved with a labor of love for 54 years.

CineMovie: Wow. That's quite an accomplishment. So what do you think is the secret to your longevity especially for a Latino in this business?

Hector: Well first of all, I’ve never changed my name. I have a very exotic name as you can tell, Hector Elizondo is a………. you can’t dodge that at all, nor do I want to. I decided that a long time ago. I come from a particular time and place. I came from a time of theater in New York in the 60s, I mean actually maybe late 50s, so I was given opportunities to train and learn with people who were exceptional and I learned from everybody and so it wasn't a matter of chasing the globe or chasing stardom. I wanted to represent certain authors, like Arthur Miller or Shakespeare or Neil Simon - all of whom I've done. I mean I starred on Broadway with Neil Simon. I took over from Peter Falk. So for someone with a name like Hector Elizondo to be up there on the marquee, I never made a big deal of it. I never sold that. ‘Hey, I’m one of the few Latinos,’ I never did that. That's too much of a category that puts us in a bind. I don’t have to explain myself. I deserve to be there because I fit the role, that’s all I ask for… give me a shot and I'll certainly show you what I could do. So I just never took a step back but again I come from a particular time when there only were three or four of us working at that level myself, Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, you see it gets, it gets slim………

CineMovie: Yeah exactly...

Hector: Just up to three you know. Ricardo Montalban, of course, did some theater and there was Anthony Quinn. It's a short list of people who took all the shots. They paved the way so I was right there punching along with them, but I never played the Latino card and say 'I deserve a better shot because I….' No get out of here. I deserve a shot because I'm a professional and I’m right for the role and the other thing is extraneous. So I never called myself a Latino actor, it’s obvious for God’s sake.

CineMovie: Yeah, your name says it all.

Hector: I didn’t go to school to be a Latino actor, what the hell does that mean……….

CineMovie: Exactly

Hector: So I don’t like that. I think that hampers us, you know……..

CineMovie: How do you think the industry has changed? Are you seeing it move forward?

Hector: Oh yeah, it’s not the same world now. You have the chance of being your own producer, you have a chance to create your own shows. These are wonderful opportunities now and even with this technology, you can get little camera you could shoot a movie if you want with a half a dozen pals, and make it somewhat meaningful. You have a calling card there as a producer, directors, as a writers, as a creator. It's a different world. You just have to take advantage of it and make sure you have the right association and the only advice I have to younger people is to learn, bring respect to what you're doing. If you respect, they’ll respective you. That’s all.

CineMovie: Well that's some great advice. Thank you.

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