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Actor Wilson Cruz Staying Busy With a host of gay roles

Knight Ridder Newspapers
February 21, 1998


by Gail Shister

A murdered transvestite on "Ally McBeal." A confused gay teen on "My So-Called Life." And now, an AIDS-infected drag queen prostitute on Broadway.
Got something against straight roles, Wilson Cruz?

"I do want to play someone regular," says Cruz, 24, drawing kudos for his portrayal of Angel in the smash musical, "Rent." "At the same time, my first priority is to play someone interesting. And these have been the really interesting roles.
"All these boring straight guys do nothing for me. I think there will be a time when I have to do it and I'll want to do it. . . . I can pass (as a heterosexual). I don't have a problem with that."
Make no mistake. This Wilson is on Cruz control.
After opening with the LA production of "Rent," Cruz was brought up to the bigs Dec. 2. He's signed at least through June. After that, there's a TV project in the works. Cruz isn't talking, but buzz is that he may play a (straight) single dad-college student with an infant son.
Eight stage shows per week "is the hardest thing I've ever done, " says Cruz, whose theatre resume includes leads in "Hamlet" and " Romeo and Juliet." "By Sunday night, I'm jello."
Good thing he likes jello.
Compared with TV drama, the instant audience response in theater "can be electrifying," Cruz says. Particularly when you're playing a character that would curdle the cuticles of your average Joe and Jane Six-Pack.
"Let's not forget this is a young boy in drag who has AIDS and is running around stage kissing another man," Cruz says. "To get the audience to love and miss me when I'm gone is a huge challenge. When it's achieved, I feel incredibly fulfilled."
While gay roles "are an obvious choice" for Cruz, he's "proven that I can be subtle and real; not too stereotypical. People like the fact that I'm not talking down to them. I take for granted that there are intelligent people out there who don't make assumptions."
On the personal front, Cruz is cruisin'. His live-in love, Steven David, 30, has postponed the start of his master's program in psychology at Cal State-Los Angeles to be with Cruz during his "Rent" run. "It' s quite a sacrifice," sighs Cruz. "This is the one."

“And, you know, with your hair like that? It hurts to look at you.”

Rayanne Graff, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"