Actor and comedian Alec Mapa has been keeping some pretty damn-good company lately. Of course he rubbed elbows with Vanessa Williams and the Mode crew for four years on Ugly Betty, but it was his recent two appearances on The View that had everyone buzzing. And not just because “America’s Gaysian Sweetheart” had the ladies dying with laughter, but also because he was telling America about his newest role: dad. In between driving carpool and hosting the GayVN awards (betcha never thought those two things would be found in the same sentence), Alec hopped on our Soapbox to talk about gay families, joking with the race card and how humor saved his life. Check out this instinctmagazine.com extended Soapbox exclusive!
My husband, Jamie, and I always liked kids. We were always the house where our friends would drop off their kids whenever they had auditions or whenever they just needed a night alone. So we always liked having kids around and what began happening was whenever the kid would leave, we would feel a little sad. So a couple years ago we went on the R Family Cruise and we were surrounded by people just like us—but who had kids—and they didn’t seem to fall apart. We didn’t have any illusions as to how much work it was going to be, but that was kind of the trip that made us say that would be us in a couple of years. And sure enough, three years later it happened.
We are foster-adopt parents, which means we are adopting a kid who is in the foster care system. Basically he is living with us and will be ours really soon. I tell everybody that we had three rough weeks because he was literally like, “Where are we? Who are you? What’s gazpacho?” And then after that he just turned into a regular kid. He turned into our kid. And as a 5-year-old boy he had the attention span of a flashcube. And not that this is what it’s all about, but he is pretty fucking cute!
I mean, my kid is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m so happy. It’s work, but it’s made my husband and I stronger as a couple and it’s made our community of friends closer to us than ever before. And this kid is growing up with all kinds interesting nannies! All these really hot guys take him out to museums or come with us to Disney Land. His favorite “nanny” is Calpernia Addams. That’s his Auntie Cali, and he just loves her.
So, it’s just an interesting tribe that he’s growing up around and it’ll be interesting to find out what kind of person he is afraid of later on in life because our tribe is so diverse. You just expose children to diversity and all different kinds of people. And kids get it. It’s not complicated. You explain that there are all different types of families: Some kids have one mom, some have two moms, some have one dad, some have two dads. And that’s it, end of subject. And he gets it.
And now I’m apparently the new Asian woman on The View! It’s like I replaced Lisa Ling. What’s amazing about the people on that show is they make it look flawless and so easy. But it’s like a game of double dutch; you gotta just jump in. I decided before I went that we weren’t going to scream about all the stuff we disagree on but talk passionately about the stuff we have in common. Because that’s where hearts and minds are changed. I have a lot of conservative people in my family. I was raised very strict Catholic, my husband’s family is Church of Christ, yet we’re all very close and all we want to do is eat, drink and hang out. And I would be very sad if they weren’t in my life.
There’s kind of a really weird vibe in the air. I think that people feel that now that we have a black president, racism doesn’t exist or we don’t have to talk about race. And it’s like, “No! That doesn’t solve anything.” Just because we have a black president those problems do not evaporate. I address racism within the gay community because I think that’s a really unfortunate behavior for a group of people who have already been excluded and discriminated against. For us to do that to each other is lousy. But when I do talk about that stuff, I talk about it in a funny way!
My philosophy is funny is funny. Something is either funny or it’s not. The minute somebody says, “That’s too soon.” I’m like, “Too soon?! If it’s funny later, it’s funny now.” I’ve gone through big, deep depressions where I wanted to jump and the thing that has saved me every time is humor. My sense of humor. That’s the most important survival tool we have because the minute you can’t laugh at anything, you’re screwed!
People always ask me about [Ugly] Betty, and I have to say, I miss the cast so much! It was a gay-owned and operated production. Silvio Horta was in charge and the writers were so generous to me. I have the kind of self-esteem that if you ask me out on a second or third date, I’m still wondering if you even like me. And they wrote me back 30 different times! So I’m really, really grateful to them.
Everybody was extraordinarily kind. Vanessa Williams will make eye contact with you and have a real conversation with you having just met you. And Judith Light, who is also a big gay activist, it was great working with her as well. It was a big gay universe! And Betty White! That was frightening because I didn’t know we were shooting that scene that day. Usually I would shoot one scene and I would go home. So, I did my scene and then they said they were ready for me on soundstage 24 and I was like, “why?” And they said because we’re shooting with Betty White and I freaked because I hadn’t memorized that scene! So, we do the camera block and then they light it, which takes about 15 minutes, and when we did the camera block Betty White was off book and nailed every single joke. And I was like, “Oh, shit!” So I spent the entire lighting period memorizing this long scene because I wasn’t going to screw up with this 90-year-old woman, who is mopping the floor with everybody. So we do the scene and in between takes and I look down and realize it really is Betty White and I look over at Vanessa Williams and I whisper, “Oh, my God, we’re acting with Betty White!” And Vanessa mouths back, “I know!”
Keep an eye out for Alec in Disney’s upcoming High School Musical spinoff, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. And look for Alec’s stand-up dates around the country at alecmapa.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/alecmapa.