By Simi Horwitz
NEW YORK (Backstage) - Dale Morris wants to fight back. A
60-year-old West Coast actor and playwright, Morris has, for
much of his career, kept quiet about his political views.
Morris is a Republican, and he has at times gone to such
great lengths to hide that fact that he even pretended to be a
Democrat when he ran a theater company. He had little doubt
that if his politics got out, the liberal theatergoing public
would stop coming. As an actor, Morris can't say with certainty
whether he has lost acting gigs because of his views, but he
strongly suspects if he and an equally qualified but liberal
Equity actor were up for the same role, the other actor would
"It's hard for me to express myself on this subject without
getting angry," asserted Morris. "I'm not very conservative,
but I am a Republican. To assume that a Republican is
conservative is some form of bigotry in itself. I'm not a tea
partier, a Rush Limbaugh fan, and I don't have a Nazi flag in
my back yard. Do you know how many times I've heard that phrase
from well-known people in San Diego? 'Yeah, he's a Republican
and I'm sure there's a Nazi flag in his back yard.' In dressing
rooms we dare not argue with the liberal cast members because
everybody is talking about the Republican Nazis, and that's how
we'll be branded if we do. I want to fight back -- or argue
back -- but do I want to get branded as a troublemaker? Yeah,
that's a great way to get cast."
There are well-known conservative actors -- including Gary
Sinise, Tom Selleck, Patricia Heaton, James Woods, Robert Davi,
James Belushi, Dennis Miller, and Sylvester Stallone -- but
according to Morris, their numbers are far fewer than those in
the left-wing camp and, more important, they simply don't have
the clout. "If you think even for one instance Stallone can get
the same press as Clooney, you're nuts," he said. "Clooney is a
media darling. If he says something he's taken seriously. If
Stallone says something, it's 'Look what the a--hole said."'
NOT A MONOLITH
What especially disturbs Morris is amalgam thinking,
coupled with a double standard among industry insiders.
Democrats can be liberal, moderate, or centrist, whereas a
Republican is by definition in sync with "the rich, greedy
bastards out there with whom I have no connection."
Conservatism and Republicanism encompass a range of views.
Morris, for example, is against capital punishment, supports a
woman's right to choose, and is pro -- gay marriage. "But I am
Republican in my basic beliefs," he said. "I believe people
should help themselves, neighborhoods should help each other,
and government should stay out of our lives as much as
Kimberly Hilton, a singer in Charlotte, N.C., defined
herself as a conservative, not a Republican. "I believe in
Reaganomics and don't think global warming is real. It's Al
Gore making a buck," she said.
Though she is flexible on abortion and gay marriage, she
does not support President Barack Obama's health care program
or the demands of large public unions. "SAG and Equity are
pro-union, pro-union, pro-union," she said. "Unions have their
place. But Wisconsin unions are public-sector. And some liberal
actors don't seem to make that distinction."
Actor Renee Carlson, a self-described "conservative with a
small 'c,"' talked about receiving emails from the Screen
Actors Guild and "left-leaning organizations in the
entertainment business telling me how to vote. Nobody tells me
who to vote for. I vote for more than just who is good for my
career. I vote for what's best for my entire family, and family
trumps career and is only second to God in my home."
Carlson noted she believes in legal abortion, yet is
ambivalent on the subject of gay marriage. Part of her
conservatism stems from having a husband who is a disabled vet.
She noted how fashionable it is today among liberals --
including entertainment folk -- to support the troops, without
endorsing their military missions.
Denise Villarreal said her Roman Catholicism dictates much
of what she believes. According to the actress, abortion
unfairly penalizes a baby for the parents' indiscretion -- she
makes no exception for cases of rape or incest -- and there are
alternatives to abortion that are not promoted at many family
On gay marriage: "Government has no business saying it's
going to issue or not issue marriage licenses. As far as
government is concerned, marriage is a business transaction.
It's the uniting of two financial entities, and that's not
connected to religion. And since marriage is inherently a
religious institution, it should be taken away from government
altogether. For those who are not religious, they can have a
merger and if you want a ceremony you can do it in Unitarian
Church or whatever you want." She'd also like to see government
out of health care, arguing it does it badly and far too
New York City actor Michael Aquilino believes in a woman's
right to choose and has no problem with gay marriage. Still,
he voted for George W. Bush, is opposed to Obama's health care
program -- Aquilino thinks there's a "fine line between that
and communism" -- and does not favor affirmative action
programs. He said Obama never would have been nominated had he
not been black.
TELL IF ASKED...MAYBE
Aquilino insisted he has many African-American actor
friends who accept him fully and know he is not a racist.
Still, he feels looked down upon by many colleagues. He
recalled performing in Bertolt Brecht's play "The Private Life
of the Master Race" during Bush's second term. "To stir things
up a bit, the director asked who had voted for President Bush
and I was one of three people who raised their hand, which of
course was received with moans and groans from the rest of the
cast. But when it came down to it, most of the people in that
cast who I challenged for a debate were timid and tiptoed
around me. What I learned from is that I should stick to my
convictions and stay true to myself no matter what."
Most of the actors said they do not talk about politics
with their actor cronies unless asked -- and even then respond
circumspectly. They've mastered the art of remaining silent and
blank-faced when political topics surface. It's a matter of
self-protection, especially for the actor who is not yet
established, they assert. Villarreal said that on occasion she
will "admit my opposition with a chaser of 'This probably isn't
the best forum for that discussion,' or I experiment with
creative ways to change the topic. I get extensive practice
utilizing these maneuvers at my mundane job as an accountant
for an environmental firm. In both arenas, I am frustrated that
people can't discuss politics without getting personal, which
leaves me to be silent or evasive on my opinions to protect
whatever future I might have in this industry."
Interestingly, neither Villarreal nor others interviewed
are willing to deny their politics on their Facebook pages,
maintaining it's a private domain and should have no bearing on
their careers, though they've found it may. Hilton said casting
directors have told her they check out actors' Facebook pages.
Still, she's not sure whether she has lost any gigs as a
result. Colleagues are another story.
"I became a Facebook friend with an actress I had worked
with," she recalled. "I had never brought up my politics with
her, but on my Facebook page I did not hide them. After the
2010 election I noticed we weren't friends anymore, and then I
saw on a mutual friend's page her comment that some of her
friends are 'Republicans.' I felt that was directed at me."
Hilton concurred it might be sensible for her not to post her
political views on Facebook, but she refuses to censor herself
on her own page, pointing out, "I don't go to an audition
wearing a big red elephant sweater. But my Facebook page is
A refrain among the actors interviewed is that contrary to
the image of liberals as being broad-minded and tolerant, they
are quite the opposite. They said conservative actors are far
more open to those who have views different from their own.
They can "agree to disagree" and still be friends, and if the
chasm is too great for friendship, they can at least be
courteous to someone on the other side of the aisle. But the
same courtesy is not afforded them.
Perhaps Hilton summed up their collective experiences best
when she said, "You are just looked at differently. You get the
raised eyebrows: 'You mean you didn't vote for Obama?' or 'Oh,
she's a Republican; she's an idiot.' Being a conservative in
this industry is equal to being a leper to some people."
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