Wilson Cruz Talks Playing An Openly Gay Character In ’90s Series ‘My So-Called Life’

Wilson Cruz was a TV groundbreaker.

On this week’s new episode of the “At Home with the Creative Coalition” podcast, the actor opens up about playing an openly gay character in the classic ’90s series “My So-Called Life”.

“I was out to my intimate circle of friends, to my youngest brother. You know, I was in college at the time. In my circle, I was out to everybody. I wasn’t out to my parents. I think my parents were basically the last people to find out,” he says. “So I hadn’t told them, then I got cast in ‘My So-Called Life.’ We made the pilot of ‘My So-Called Life,’ I still hadn’t told them.”

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He continues, “I told them about the part and that I was on the show, and they were very excited. But I didn’t really tell them much, didn’t go into detail. And the show, infamously, did not get picked up for that first season. We had a whole year before we went into production on the rest of the season. When we finally got the pickup, I realized that’s when I had to tell my family.”

Cruz reveals he was almost kicked out of the house after telling his dad that he was gay.

“My father asked me on Christmas Eve… He asked me if I was gay. It was Christmas Eve, we had all of our family there… and my father asked me why I hadn’t brought a girl. I had brought my best friend from high school, a guy. He was drunk and decided that was when he was going to ask,” Cruz recalls. “And I had made this agreement with the universe that I would be honest next time, and there, in the bathroom on Christmas Eve, my father asked me and I answered honestly. And he kicked me out of the house. And we had about three months before we started working on [‘My So-Called Life’] so I had about three months that I had to figure out what to do. So a combination of staying with friends and staying in my car and doing what I had to do in order to survive three months.”

Being on “My So-Called Life”, though, actually helped Cruz’s dad to accept his sexuality.

“My father and I didn’t speak for a year,” he says. “And in that year, we made 18 episodes [of ‘My So-Called Life’] and one of those episodes is about my character’s own situation where he was kicked out of his house because he was gay. Unbeknownst to me, my father watched that episode when it aired and, as the credits are rolling, he calls me and says, ‘I think it’s time that we talk.’ That was the beginning of a real relationship with my father, and it all came because of a show that so many people — you know, when people come to me and say, ‘That show changed my life’ or ‘That show saved my life,’ I say, ‘Me too.’ It gave me my father, it gave me my family back.”

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The actor also talks about his role on “Star Trek: Discovery” and getting to act with his longtime friend Anthony Rapp.

“It’s like a dream job,” he says. “First of all, I get to work with one of my favourite people in the world, Anthony Rapp. He’s a very special human being, and I’m really lucky to be able to work with him. And we have a long relationship, a long, long history that we gather together and bring with us onto the show. We were in [“Rent”] together for about a month. His last month and my first month on Broadway overlapped. And we’ve been friends ever since.”

Cruz adds, “At the time, there were only a handful of openly gay actors who understood what that was like. He and I were two of them. So we’d always had great conversations about that, very supportive of each other. So working on the show, it’s a dream. I can’t believe sometimes that they pay me to do it.”

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