2015 Television Industry Advocacy Awards: Honoring 10 TV Stars Who Give Back

TV Insider Staff
2015 Television Industry Advocacy Awards Honorees

Clockwise from top left: Jake Chessum/Trunk Archive; Eric Ray Davidson/Trunk Archive; Steve Granitz/WireImage; Victoria Will/Invision/AP Photo; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic; Warwick Saint/August; Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic; Monica Schipper/Getty Images; Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic; Nino Munoz/CBS

The first-ever Television Industry Advocacy Awards benefitting the Creative Coalition in partnership with TV Guide Magazine and TVInsider.com salutes those leaders in the industry who use the power of their celebrity to advocate for charitable and social causes. Here, we highlight how the 10 award recipients relentlessly work, both publicly and behind the scenes, to raise awareness for their beliefs. "It's about the issues," Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk says, and this year's honorees have used their visibility to help support LGBTQ rights, diabetes awareness, the efficacy of the arts, youth empowerment and more. Adds Bronk: "There's an obligation to give back to the community. We're doing our part."

Michael Schneider

Anthony Anderson

Steve Granitz/WireImage

Anthony Anderson: Diabetes Awareness

The first thought Anthony Anderson had when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was that he was too young. The actor, just 32 at the time, had never considered the possibility that the disease his father suffered with—and eventually passed away from—could afflict him as well."From there, I made a point to speak about it publicly," the now 35-year-old star of ABC's black-ish says. He has worked tirelessly, particularly within the African-American community. That included a stint as spokesperson for an Eli Lilly program called F.A.C.E. Diabetes (Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered), which aimed to dispel the misconception that diabetes affects only the elderly, and he has spoken at schools to help children make better nutritional choices. His character on the black-ish has the disease as well, a trait Anderson (who is also a producer on the show) was keen to include.

He's done a fair amount of work on himself too: Anderson lost 50 pounds in an effort to get his health issues under control, and he no longer eats meat. There's still more work to be done, though, and Anderson encourages people to donate to any organization that helps diabetes sufferers not just survive, but thrive.

Oriana Schwindt

Neal Baer

Nino Munoz/CBS

Neal Baer: The Global Media Center for Social Impact (GMI)

A pediatrician by training, Neal Baer has spent the last 25 years as a successful television writer and producer, often focusing on stories dealing with pressing health matters. ER drew attention to HIV/AIDS and HPV, while Law & Order: SVU has highlighted transgender bullying and rape in the military, among other charged issues. "[SVU's] Mariska Hargitay's successful campaign to urge police departments to open the backlog of rape kits after a storyline on the show was the beginning of my realizing that my projects had a huge impact and people also wanted to know what they could do," Baer says.

In 2013, working with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Baer helped launch the Global Media Center for Social Impact (GMI), which has provided scriptwriters with consultants and other resources that have impacted more than 500 storylines on 91 TV shows. "We want to tell stories that will improve the health of people around the world by giving them actions to take that go beyond donations and signing petitions to bring about change," says Baer, who was most recently the showrunner on CBS's Under the Dome. Upcoming GMI showcases include this month's PBS debut of the 2013 documentary If You Build It, which follows rural kids in North Carolina creating a farmer's market, and the investigative book Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), which comes out in October.

Ileane Rudolph

Beth Behrs

Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic

Beth Behrs: The Rape Foundation

No one had to explain to Beth Behrs the importance of the Rape Foundation's Rape Treatment Center, the only crisis facility in Los Angeles that provides victims with 24-hour emergency medical care, forensic examinations, crisis intervention, long-term counseling and accompanying services all in one place. "I experienced it firsthand," the star of CBS' 2 Broke Girls says. "A friend of mine was sexually assaulted in college. After she told me, I frantically googled what to do, finding the center. We still call the staff our angels."

Then, earlier this year, actress Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) took Behrs on a tour of the center, where she met the foundation's president, Gail Abarbanel. "I got to thank her in person," says Behrs, who has been repaying the kindness both as a spokesperson and by spearheading the running-based initiative Sprint Away Silence, which raises funds for the foundation. "I'm going to continue to make the Rape Treatment Center as much a part of my media presence as 2 Broke Girls," she says. "Rape is an epidemic—like cancer. But unlike rape, no one ever claims you 'allegedly' have lymphoma. I want to help support the survivors, who are so often silenced, because the more support they feel, the more likely they are to come forward, which ultimately leads to fewer rapists on the streets and more in jail."

Aubry D'Arminio

Laverne Cox

Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Laverne Cox: Supporting LGBTQ Causes

Ever since Orange Is the New Black made Laverne Cox a star, the actress—who is transgender—has proved a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ community. She's partnered with GLAAD to fight the bullying of LGBTQ youth, she's toured the country to share her story at colleges and she produced an MTV documentary, Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, which shined a light on the issues facing young trans people. On social media, she turned a hashtag about loving who you are—#TransIsBeautiful—into a movement. This summer, she served as the spokesperson for Equinox's #PoweredByPride campaign supporting the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which provides programs for LGBTQ youth. And in June, she headlined Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' annual burlesque show, helping to raise more than $1.5 million for the charity in one night.

All this exposure has made her one of the most recognizable faces in the push for trans acceptance and appreciation. "I've been very blessed to have gotten so many letters and emails and met so many trans folks who said they transitioned [or] they've come out to friends and family because of my work," Cox says. "If I can inspire someone to live more authentically and to pursue their dreams, then that's awesome."

Gregory E. Miller

Alan Cumming

Jake Chessum/Trunk Archive

Alan Cumming: Supporting LGBTQ Causes

A star of stage, screen and TV in both his native U.K. and in the U.S., Alan Cumming has been a longtime activist and champion for LGBTQ causes. The Scottish actor, currently playing wheeling-and-dealing political operative Eli Gold on CBS' The Good Wife, has done work for such organizations as the Family Equality Council (which advocates for LGBTQ families), media watchdog GLAAD, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (which funds health clinics and food banks and provides assistance with housing for those living with HIV and AIDS) and the Hetrick-Martin Institute (which supports and protects at-risk LGBTQ youth). He'll soon raise money for Broadway Cares by donating the proceeds of sales of items from "Club Cumming," a personal backstage bar the actor sets up for the cast and crew of his stage shows; the serving trays, glasses and more will be available at the tableware retailer Fishs Eddy.

"I feel I would try to help as much as I do even if I wasn't on TV or famous," Cumming says. "But the fact that I am means I have a much bigger voice and reach. It is a duty to use fame and use it wisely. It really is a great gift for me to be able to give soemthing back." The Tony-winning actor credits his heritage for his dedication to helping others. "Being Scottish," he says, "means I was born with a very strong sense of justice and the inability to be quiet when something is unfair or someone is being hard done by."

--Ileane Rudolph

Eva Longoria

Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Eva Longoria: The Eva Longoria Foundation

Eva Longoria was, at one time, getting up to 20 charity requests a day. "‘We want Eva to help with dolphins in Japan' and ‘We want Eva to help with AIDS in Africa' and ‘Can Eva come to save the rainforest?'" Longoria says. "It was very overwhelming…but also encouraging. I just thought, 'I need a focus.'" Inspired by community programs that helped her forge her own path to college, the Devious Maids executive producer and star of the upcoming NBC comedy Hot & Bothered found that focus in helping to empower Latinas and their families through education and entrepreneurship.

Founded in 2012, the Eva Longoria Foundation—yes, that's ELF for short—has launched several successful and life-altering initiatives, including a program that has provided microloans to more than 100 budding businesswomen and another that has taught more than 1,000 low-income Latino parents how to make sure their kids are getting the education they deserve. "The future success of America is intricately tied to the future success of the Hispanic community," says Longoria, whose primary role at the foundation is to engage the public in understanding these issues. "We are the fastest-growing [ethnic group] in the United States that is the least educated. This is going to be the future workforce of the United States. So we're going to have to really pay attention to that problem right now."

Gregory E. Miller

Tim Robbins

Eric Ray Davidson/Trunk Archive

Tim Robbins: The Actors' Gang Prison Project

One of Tim Robbins's most famous roles is that of white-collar criminal Andy Dufresne in 1994's much-beloved The Shawshank Redemption. The role inspired the Oscar winner, currently starring in HBO's The Brink, to create a prison-focused program within the Actors' Gang, a nonprofit theater troupe that he cofounded in 1981. "Over 90 percent of inmates currently serving time are going to get out of prison," Robbins says. "They'll be living in your neighborhood. Don't we want them to come out of prison with better tools to deal with the challenges of life on the outside?"

The Prison Project brings eight-week theater programs to California prisons, helping inmates put together final presentations (born out of improvisational scenes and exercises) for invited audiences. Robbins says the simple act of being able to express feelings leads to increased emotional health, and participants in the programs have a 0 percent rate of recidivism—compared to California's 60 percent average. The actor is particularly proud of one group of inmates at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. When the program had to be interrupted for eight months, two inmates decided to proceed, petitioning the prison to allow them to use a room once a week. The inmates put together an entire show themselves, including costumes, sets and original songs. "It was quite stunning," Robbins says, "to see the heart and dedication they put into the production."

Oriana Schwindt

Jeffrey Tambor

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Jeffrey Tambor: Youth Empowerment

Just think how many iconic TV characters wouldn't exist if, five decades ago, Jeffrey Tambor had abandoned his wish of becoming a working actor. No one else could have played "Hey now!" Hank Kingsley on The Larry Sanders Show. Arrested Development's George Bluth would definitely not have been the kooky same. And Maura Pfefferman, the newly out transgender woman Tambor currently portrays so sensitively on Transparent, might not be touching so many lives. That's one reason the 71-year-old actor has taken on a unique mission: speaking to kids of all ages all across the country about never giving up on their dreams. "I'm consumed by why people stop pursuing what they want and do something else," Tambor says. "Fear is too general a word. Some kids want to please their parents. Most new graduates are already in debt because of their loans. People take a side step and defer their dreams for a year and then the next year and the next year and the next year. I try to give them a little hit."

While Tambor doesn't restrict his wise words to any particular profession, he has spoken to actors, directors, writers and artists at the South by Southwest convention for over a decade. "I always try to find out what a person's story is. What's keeping you from going forward?" he says. "I hear, ‘I'm too fat, I'm too tall, I'm too thin, I'm too old.' I'm too old. I'm 71. And I'm acting!"

Aubry D'Arminio

Alfre Woodward

Warwick Saint/August

Alfre Woodward: President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Turnaround Arts Program

Education has always been a passion for Alfre Woodard. The Emmy Award–winning actress, who most recently appeared on TNT's The Last Ship and previously starred in NBC's State of Affairs, hails from a family of teachers, and both her brother and sister served as school administrators. So when President Barack Obama appointed her to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in 2009, Woodard made it her personal mission to implement the Turnaround Arts program, which brings music and art into the lowest-performing public schools in the country.

"What makes us human is our ability to express ourselves," Woodard says. "We are not trying to create or nurture artists. What we're nurturing are citizens." Woodard and a team of approximately 40 artists, musicians and actors have "adopted" more than 50 schools around the nation, focusing their efforts not just on reforming arts education but also on increasing test scores and parental involvement while reducing the number of disciplinary infractions. "We think of it as a wrench and a way to fix schools," says Woodard, who just returned from working with Kamaile Academy Public Charter School and Waianae Elementary School in Waianae, Hawaii. "The reason we established our nation as a superpower was that public education was sturdy, but that has slipped away. And this certainly is a proven method of turning schools around."

Rob Moynihan

Constance Zimmer

Victoria Will/Invision/AP Photo

Constance Zimmer: Efficacy of the Arts

Quinn King, the ruthless producer Constance Zimmer plays on Lifetime's UnReal, wouldn't stand for this, so why should the actress? "I realized after having a child seven years ago how crazy it is that there isn't enough funding for the arts [in schools]," Zimmer says. "I thought, ‘What are you talking about?'" Prior to giving birth to daughter Colette, Zimmer was happy to lend her Entourage fame to any cause she could—the Humane Society, Oceana, the World Wildlife Fund, to name a few—even at the risk of facing burnout. "I feel like I spread myself too thin, but I was so excited about doing some good," she says. And although she still works with such organizations as the Environmental Media Association, she's now "homed in on what I could give a lot more of my time to."

That has meant focusing on the arts-education-based initiatives of the Creative Coalition. She recently joined the Coalition in Washington to lobby Congress to keep the arts in classrooms "for those who don't have it and can't afford it." So far, her efforts have paid off. "They approved a certain amount of money to stay in arts funding," she says proudly of her trip to Capitol Hill. "But we still need more."

Damian Holbrook

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