Actor Wilson Cruz always had two items on his bucket list: perform in a Broadway musical and find a place in the Star Trek universe.
The 44-year-old gay actor checked off the first when he took the stage as Angel in the musical “Rent” in 1998. And just last year, he created the role of Dr. Hugh Culber, the openly gay doctor on the hit CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery.”
As many actors have discovered, even a small role on any “Star Trek” franchise can catapult careers and earn legions of devoted fans. Cruz will have one of his first opportunities to greet those “Trekkies” at Paradise City Comic Con this weekend.
“I was a ‘Trek’ fan for sure, but I wouldn’t call myself a ‘Trekkie’ because I don’t have (the) encyclopedic knowledge,” Cruz said in a telephone interview. “I appreciate how devoted the fans are to the show…it’s fascinating that so many hold such intricate knowledge. That’s fantastic, that’s why we do it. I make no allusions that they’re excited about me. They’re excited about the show and I’m part of the show and I get that.”
Cruz was one of the first openly gay Hollywood actors and has played many gay roles, beginning in 1994 as Rickie Vasquez, a troubled gay teen in the critically-acclaimed but short-lived “My So-Called Life.” Small film and TV movie roles followed before he landed on Broadway in “Rent.” Cruz was then cast in “Party of Five,” and a string of subsequent acting credits.
Cruz actively sought out the role on “Discovery.”
“I tracked it down and put a rope around it. I lassoed it and pulled it towards me,” he recalled, noting he learned about the series while it was still in development. “I wanted to be a part of the storytelling, of an LGBT storyline that carried through the series. I was excited about the prospect.”
The actor did land his coveted role and was reunited with former “Rent” co-star Anthony Rapp, also openly gay, who portrays science officer Statmets. While Sulu was revealed in 2016 to be gay in “Star Trek Beyond,” their onscreen relationship would break new ground in the “Star Trek” universe. Without revealing any spoilers, Cruz promised there would be more to come.
On television, Cruz may be breaking down barriers in the 23rd-century, but he’s always been committed to LGBT equality in the 20th- and 21st-centuries.
“I’m a bit of a political wonk and an activist, an active member of the resistance and LGBTQ community. (I) try to find ways I can be useful and use my visibility purposefully,” he said.
And Cruz’s next frontier? He’d like to portray his musical idol Prince.
“Lord knows I’m not getting any younger. Part of what I love about what I do being an actor is I always don’t always know what my next project will be,” he said.
Wilson Cruz will appear at Paradise City Comic Con on Saturday, Jan. 13 and Sunday, Jan. 14 at Miami Airport Convention Center, 711 N.W. 72nd Ave. in Miami. Tickets are available at ParadiseCityComicCon.com