DA MAN chats with American actor Wilson Cruz from “Star Trek: Discovery” about acting, hope and how he keeps himself together in these chaotic times.
Long after he landed his first role as Enrique “Rickie” Vasquez in the ‘90s teen drama series “My So-Called Life,” Brooklyn-born actor Wilson Cruz is still the same person. We’re not talking about his consistency in the acting world, mind you, but about how he continues to be a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community. For his second appearance in DA MAN—the first time in one of our print issues, however; you can find his previous feature on daman.co.id—we got the chance to talk more about his story, his role in “Star Trek: Discovery” and his thoughts on current events.
DA MAN: Hi, Wilson, great having you with us again. How are you?
Wilson Cruz: I’m well, thank you. I’m happy to be back!
DA: How are things there, with the ongoing pandemic?
WC: Well, I’m afraid because of ineptitude and the failed leadership at the very top of our government, the U.S. has failed to keep the rate of infections down. That, coupled with the varied response across the country instead of a unified nationwide plan, is leading to misinformation and confusion. It’s quite frustrating. I have hope that a new day and new leadership is coming soon.
DA: The last time we talked was when “Star Trek: Discovery” was about to start airing; and now the show is entering its third season. How do you feel about the show now?
WC: “Star Trek: Discovery” has been one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my professional career and the people I’m fortunate to make it with are a treasure added to my personal life. Hugh Culber, his life, his journey, his capacity for love and empathy, the worlds he visits and his revelations, in the process, are a joy to inhabit. I can’t get enough.
DA: What has changed in your character—Dr. Hugh Culber—from the first season?
WC: Ha! Well—and this is no exaggeration—for Hugh, everything has changed since season one. As we enter season three, not only are he and his crew mates journeying to a new future, but Hug, himself is inhabiting a new body after being reconstituted when he died after being murdered. And, if that wasn’t enough, he and his boyfriend Paul have built a new relationship from the ashes. So much has changed for Hugh because he’s endured so much, but he’s come out the other end, wiser for having been on the journey.
DA: What can you share with fans of the show about the third season? Any exciting plot twists coming our way?
WC: All I can tell you at this point is that we’re going to see more of Hugh this season. And he’ll be taking on new responsibilities at home and at work, in addition to his current duties.
DA: Was the third season filmed during the pandemic or before?
WC: We had just completed principal photography when the pandemic hit the U.S. in earnest. Due to the shutdown, the post production schedule was extended. So, it took a little longer to complete, but we’re so excited for folks to finally see it!
DA: How have you adapted to world in the midst of a pandemic?
WC: Well, I’ve kept my circle of people I interact with pretty small when I do leave the house. I wear a mask wherever I go. I wash my hands frequently. I haven’t travelled much, which is difficult with my parents and family across the country. But it’s for the best, for now. I’ve adapted the way I do things. We are an adaptable species if we allow ourselves to be dictated by facts and science.
DA: And how do you keep yourself together?
WC: I live alone, therefore feeling isolated is real and actual. So, I try to get fresh air. I went out and bought a bike and I was riding it a lot when there was less auto traffic. Now, I go for long walks and great hikes. The things that have really kept me sane is my friends on FaceTime, amazing books and my makeshift home gym. I’ve done wonders with a yoga mat, adjustable dumbbells, resistance bands and a new piece of equipment called a flywheel that I found through my trainer, who I work out with one-on-one three times a week. I need the physical activity for mental stability.
DA: What are your thoughts on current events?
WC: I’ll tell you what I think. I think the one thing about this unbelievably debilitating, heartbreaking experience with this virus is that it has revealed, all over the world, the individual strengths and weaknesses of the various governments. That’s true here, in the U.S., in the way that this virus revealed in even more stark reality that people of color, here, continue to pay the highest price for our failed healthcare system, which is just a reflection of who’s health is, indeed, valued here.
But we’re having those conversations again, about race and about healthcare, and I think that because we have seen with our own eyes the disparities—in real time—that the conversation is different. And, hopefully, that will lead to a different result … but first we have an election and our first assignment is to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I want you all to know that many of us, most of us, still believe in the ideals that this country was founded upon. So many of us understand that those ideals are still worthy of aspiration—that all (wo)men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We still believe that and we still believe that the beacon of hope that those words represent around the world is not only worthy of preserving but of actualizing. Because if we do, we’ll be better neighbors for the rest of the world.
DA: And talking about hope, what are your hopes for the LGBTQ+ community?
WC: My hopes for the LGBTQ+ community is that we continue to do the real work of gaining true acceptance. We’ve seen a number of legal victories, but the work of acceptance takes place in the heart and soul. It’s personal and it’s wrought with anxiety for each individual. It calls for us to be vulnerable and to continue to have uncomfortable conversations with people we love. My hope is that we continue to do the work of taking care of each other during this pandemic. That we stand up and support our young people who find themselves sheltered at home, many times, that are less than supportive. And into that breech, the LGBTQ+ community must step. These times call for us to be sensitive to the mental health issues in our community and it is extremely difficult for trans people and people of color. We must be willing to do that work as well. There is so much to do, but I have no doubt we’ll step up.
DA: You’ve been in the entertainment industry for quite some time now. Do you have any tips for those who are just starting out?
WC: I know it sounds quaint, but honestly, the most important thing for a young actor to do is to master their craft and to take every and any opportunity to work on stage and in front of the camera that one could get. So much of what we do is personal and finding what works for you can only happen by doing. So, as Nike said: just do it!
DA: What is it about acting that you love so much?
WC: The thing I love the most about acting is the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes, to live in their skin, to try and empathize and understand another person’s truth. I love what I discover about being human and what I discover about myself in the process. I love the exchange with another artist who is in search of that same truth.
DA: In another world and another reality, what would you be if you weren’t an actor?
WC: I think if I weren’t an actor, I’d be in service in some way. I probably would’ve started as an English teacher, but I have a feeling I would’ve found my way into running for office.
DA: And lastly, any words of encouragement you want to share with us?
WC: I know how difficult these times are for the entire world. The ways our lives have been turned upside down … the loved ones we’ve lost. In my time in isolation, I’ve wondered what lessons are to be learned from this moment. I think, in the end, this pandemic is yet another reminder of just how connected we all are. If we can come out of this understanding in a very real and tangible way, how each of our actions directly affect the people and the world around us, I think we will have gained something. If we can learn to care for each other and love each other through this, we’ll better understand that the ways we separate from each other are imagined. The truth, as we can now clearly see, is that the only way we’ll survive this is if we see ourselves in each other enough to save our own souls. In my heart of hearts, I have to believe we will….
PHOTOGRAPHY IAN PHILLIPS
STYLING KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT
GROOMING AMANDA TRALLE Amanda Tralle
U.S.-BASED CREATIVE DIRECTOR MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK
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