close and back to page

Latest News

Latest News

Sparking Creativity Through Activism: Actor Jonathan Del Arco

How can you channel passion for creativity with the fight for civil rights into a successful career? Actor Jonathan Del Arco shares his story.

How can you further your career? First, try becoming an "interested person" and devote yourself to a cause other than you, advises Jonathan Del Arco, who plays Dr. Morales, the medical examiner on the critically acclaimed "The Closer," and who also is the West Coast development consultant for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).


Del Arco spoke to an audience of CEOs and senior executives at our event in Washington, D.C., about how philanthropy can spark innovation and creativity.

Del Arco's early acting career was held back by Hollywood's homophobia—coming out could end an actor's career. He didn't hide his orientation, but he didn't promote himself as earnestly as actors often have to. Ironically, his career took off when he focused more on advocacy. Eventually, Del Arco began working as a consultant for GLSEN, which works to create safe school environments for youth regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Never did I imagine that working for a nonprofit organization would have such a great effect on me personally," Del Arco says. "It's changed the structure of how I use my career as an actor because now I have a reason beyond entertainment to promote something other than me."

Being Bullied

Del Arco was born in Uruguay, a country in southeast South America. As a child, he played with dolls and was often mistaken for a girl. His parents took him to a therapist to get him to act more like a boy, to no avail. Later, when he was 10, his family left their home for America. His first plane ride was a 15-hour trip to New York's John F. Kennedy airport. At first, he was excited to be in America because he thought life would be like the TV show "The Jetsons."

"I thought there would be big TV screens in everyone's house and we'd eat pills instead of food," he says. "I thought we'd have cars that fly."

Instead, his family moved into a two-bedroom, "rat-infested" apartment in Port Chester, N.Y., furnished by the Salvation Army. School was no respite. He couldn't speak English so he was put in a class with many poor, Spanish-speaking Latinos. The class "reminded me of steerage in the movie 'Titanic,'" he says. "If something bad were to happen, we'd be the last rescued or, worse, locked in that room, left to die."

The Latino students did not accept Del Arco, calling him "white" and shunning him. The teasing that began in Uruguay followed him to the United States. Students called him names and physically threatened him.

Once he was in junior high school, the bullying became relentless. Del Arco talked about one bully whom he called Bruce, who tormented him at school and often followed him home and terrified him. "I was sure he would kill me," Del Arco says.

Del Arco told his tormentor a clever lie, about "contagious nose cancer," that frightened the bully enough that he left Del Arco alone for the remainder of junior high school and all through high school. "That is how I learned to outsmart the bullies and not get injured," he says. "I had my imagination and my creativity and that was an asset, a way to navigate a lot of these obstacles."

A New Passion

After high school, Del Arco moved to New York City, where he landed a role in a Broadway play. Right at the beginning of his budding acting career, the AIDS epidemic ravaged the city's gay community. "I lost my first partner to it," he says.

At 24 years old, Del Arco moved to Los Angeles, living with survivor guilt and still trying to find his place as an actor. He learned quickly that coming out as an actor would be the end of his career, but he refused to lie about his orientation. "I didn't bring fake girlfriends to parties," he says. Instead of lying, he hid. He didn't go to events and didn't socialize. After four years, not coming out didn't help his career. "I had no career to speak of," he says. "I had no job. I had no agent."

While on his way to an interview for a job as a waiter, Del Arco got an offer to work on a campaign that director Rob Reiner was launching. He was hired and worked on five campaigns in the course of 10 years. "I found a new passion, which is political activism and social change. Of course, the minute you do that, the acting jobs start coming."

Del Arco had roles on TV shows including "24," "The Sopranos," and "Dollhouse." He is best known for his roles as Hugh Borg on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," as the transgender character Sophia Lopez on "Nip/Tuck" and four seasons as Dr. Morales on "The Closer." Del Arco is celebrating 19 years with his partner.

Becoming an "interested person" changed more than the course of his career. Del Arco says that juggling full-time activism with full-time acting made him a new, more confident person.

"I think I became a braver actor because of all that," he says. "I was myself."

The Conversation

Obama Reportedly Surprised by McCain's Eulogy Request

"We shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed," Obama said of McCain.

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will pay tribute to Sen. John McCain during a Saturday funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Read More Show Less

Central American Mother Suing Trump Says ‘I Had Seen Officers Grab Little Children by Their Hair and Throw Them into Cells’

A Guatemalan mother says that she witnessed immigrant child abuse from officers and wants her daughter returned unharmed.

REUTERS

Perla Karlili Alemengor Miranda De Velasquez is an asylum-seeking mother from Guatemala who is suing the Trump administration for the return of her daughter.

Read More Show Less

Coming off the heels of political chaos at the border, Americans are still feeling emotionally affected by Trump's family separation immigration policy.

According to the Washington Post, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant, called the Red Hen, while out to dinner with friends.

"The cheese course was already on the table" when the owner pulled her to the side and asked that she leave because of her political party's policies.

The Post reported that the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, politely refused to serve Sanders because "Sanders works for and defends an inhumane and unethical administration."

"I'm not a huge fan of confrontation," Wilkinson said. "I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals."

However, the decision to ask Sanders to leave seems to boil down to basic human ethics rather than because of her being simply a conservative.

Just last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen was heckled by a crowd of protesters while eating at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C.

According to CNN, Nielsen was sitting quietly in back of the MXDC Cocina Mexicana restaurant, not too far from the White House, when she began getting booed and sarcastically questioned:

"Aren't you a mother too?"

"How do you sleep at night?"

"Do you hear the babies crying?"

"If the kids don't eat in peace, you don't eat in peace."

Those are many examples of statements that seem to have less to do with being a Republican, and more to do with being undoubtedly immoral.

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney and political op-ed contributor for CNN, expressed similar observations regarding recent oppositions.

"Let's make it clear, this is not about asking someone to leave or heckling them simply because they are Republicans or conservatives," he wrote.

"That would be wrong. This is about targeting people who are very publicly involved in formulating and defending Trump's immoral policies."

Obeidallah pointed out that people didn't yell, "Get out of here because you're a Republican" but instead made chants that were specific to Trump's family separation immigration policy literally, "speaking truth to power."

Additionally, Trump is just a percentage point away from former President Richard Nixon when it comes to the total of Americans who want him impeached, according to Newsweek.

And though Sanders was offended by Wilkinson requesting that she leave by – ironically – writing, "I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so. Her actions say far more about her than about me," Wilkinson has no regrets.

"I would have done the same thing again," Wilkinson said. "We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one."

Starbucks: Don’t Close the Stores, Close Corporate Headquarters

Starbucks CEO has an epic fail in grappling with his racism problem. He is unprepared, and has no clue about how to be prepared. Don't expect this to end well.

In the aftermath of the racist incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks store, the company is going to close 8,000 Starbucks stores on May 29th for hastily prepared diversity training.

It's a mistake.

Read More Show Less

Leaders of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo have resigned after racially charged photos, including one with a student in blackface, appeared on social media. But the one sporting blackface, identified by The Tribune as Kyler Watkins, may not face disciplinary action from the school, according to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong.

Read More Show Less

Dope Whisperer Trump's Executive Order on 'Welfare' Is Another Dog-Whistle to Racists

How the master of fantasy facts' latest executive order perpetuates racist (and false) stereotypes about government-assistance recipients.

REUTERS

President Donald Trump quietly signed an executive order on Tuesday designed to make changes to public assistance programs in the United States. Per the president's outline, low-income Americans receiving assistance when it comes to food, housing and medical benefits must enter the workforce or potentially lose their benefits.

Read More Show Less