Wilson Cruz on Kissing Anthony Rapp and Being a True LGBT ‘Actorvist’

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Photo Source: Michael Gibson/CBS

Last we saw Wilson Cruz and his “Star Trek: Discovery” character, Dr. Hugh Culber, he was embraced in November’s midseason finale with onscreen partner Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) for what would mark the extraterrestrial franchise’s first same-sex kiss. Now returning Jan. 7 to CBS All Access with Season 1’s second half, Cruz sat with Backstage to discuss his work on “Discovery,” Season 2 of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” and how the two embolden his mission as a self-proclaimed “actorvist.”

Longtime friend Rapp made their onscreen chemistry easy.
“I was a ‘Star Trek’ fan, but I had no idea there had been such an outcry and desire to see a gay couple on ‘Star Trek’ for so long. I know I wanted to see it, but I didn’t know it had been such a topic of discussion in the Trekkie world. So to be a part of that couple is really humbling. Especially to do it with someone who I’ve known for 20 years honestly really helped. We didn’t have to worry about developing a respect and love for each other—that was already there.”

On doing work with a message and his two years at GLAAD.
“I feel really fortunate and grateful that not only do I get to do what I love, but I get to do it and serve a conversation that I feel is necessary, culturally. The fact that I get to bring those two passions together is amazing to me—that I get to use my art in order to inform my activism, and vice versa! The two years that I spent working at GLAAD, I think, really prepared me to play these two characters—the doctor on ‘Star Trek’ and the lawyer on ‘13 Reasons Why’—because these are professional people. I had a 9-to-5 job for the first time in my life, so I think it really informed that experience.”

All survival jobs should inform your work.
“I don’t think that there’s any shame at all in doing what you have to do in order to survive, to make money while you continue to pursue your dreams. My advice would be to look at the things you do to make money as ways to inform your work in the end. If our work is to study the human condition, most humans that we are going to be playing aren’t going to be artists, so go out and, as I did, learn what it’s like to have a 9-to-5 job.... Think of it as character study.”

Acting is making magic.
“[A career in acting] takes some real honesty and some real soul-searching, but if you know that there’s something in you that you have to give and it has to be through your art, then continue to do that. There’s a reason why you’re feeling that, and the universe will support you in that. It’s important to take leaps of faith. I think what we’re doing is magic, and sometimes we have to be magicians within our own lives, and part of that magic is being resilient in the face of adversity.”

Ready for the streaming screen? Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!