Wilson Cruz is honored for his groundbreaking career at Outfest Fusion gala in Hollywood
When a retrospective of Wilson Cruz’s career in films and on television was shown Saturday night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, I felt so proud to know a man who has been able to carve out such an impressive body of work for himself as an openly gay actor from the very beginning of his career. Wilson was the recipient of the Outfest Fusion Achievement Award for his groundbreaking career.
Most gay actors – and I’ve talked to many of them about this – stay in the closet professionally because they simply want to work. Some feel they can only come out once they reach a certain level of success while others – most – never go public. Wilson is an exception and has been out publicly since his breakthrough role as gay high school student Ricky in the 1994-95 ABC series My So-Called Life.
Whatever roles he lost along the way, he’s had enough talent to appear in many films and television shows including recurring roles on series Party of Five, Noah’s Arc and Raising the Bar and in the films johns, All Over Me, Party Monster, Coffee Date, The Ode, Bam Bam and Celeste, He’s Just Not That Into You and the new romantic comedy The People I’ve Slept With.
Wilson also is one of the lead voices in the animated series Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in the World.
And if Hollywood wasn’t coming up with the jobs, Wilson has had the singing and talent chops to take to the stage. He played Angel early in the run of the original Broadway production of Rent as well as in the Los Angeles production of that show and has many other theater credit including Tick Tick Boom.
Wilson has also been outspoken about being a gay man each step of the way and his activism has become just as much of his public persona as he speaks out for LGBT equality.
Darryl Stephens, a close friend of Wilson’s from when they starred together in the second season of Noah’s Arc, presented the award and said: “Wilson has been an out and proud actor since the beginning of his career, before the term openly gay actor event existed. … This long overdue award not only acknowledged the contributions Wilson has made as a fantastic actor but also the impact he’s made within the LGBTQ community by being a role model of courage strength honesty and commitment. … From the first moment we saw him on screen he’s brought understanding, intelligence, humor and bravery to every character he’s portrayed.”
Wilson received a standing ovation and gave a moving speech and expressed his thanks to those behind the largest LGBT film festival in the country who has “encourage me to press on – especially during times that were especially difficult.” “Outfest has been one of my greatest champions and sources of support,” he said. “I have literally grown up on Outfest screens.”
Here is much of Wilson’s moving and insightful speech from Saturday night: “I think about the countless people I’ve met, been inspired by and hired by at this festival. My experiences here have been invalauble to me as an artist and as an audience member hungry to see our stories told on that screen. that’s what Outfest provides us. It’s an opportunity to reflect on who we are, who we were and who we want to be. It’s an opportunity to feel a sense of community with people who are fighting the same fight we fight every single day -the fight to be seen, to be heard, and to be understood through the magic of storytelling.” “Make no mistake, the stories we see on Outfest screens have the power to change hearts and minds and to literally save lives. That is even more ture here at Fusion – we celebrate, nurture and lift out GLBTQ arrists of color. here are Fusion we urge storytellers to speak their own truths and in doing so illuminate the experiences of those who cannot speak for themselves. People who because of the mainstream media and its myopic view of us, ignore our experience or find it uninteresting. But here is where we begin to change that. … We dig deeper here for meaning and we celebrate the fact that we have the strength to do it – strength to endure all of the disappointments, the rejections, the budget shortfalls, the stretches of unemplohyments. All the “no’s” we hear and the various reasons why and still, we get it done – we represent.”
“It’s what I live for. It is and will continue to be my life’s work, it’s what drives me when I’m at my lowest points. The opportunities to say, ‘Here I am. See me. Feel what I’m feeling. Not because I need the attention but because I can’t live in a world where 11 yewar old boys of color hang themselves because they are teased for being effeminate – as if that’s the worst thing you can possibly be. I can’t life in a world where HIV rates among people of color continue to rise. I can’t live in a world where we stand by and let governments and churches who in one breath speak the name of Christ and in the next, speak their desire to kill us for expressing for what he taught us we are all here to feel.”
“We are soldiers armed with the undeniable force that can only be found in art, in truth and love.”