2016 Television Industry Advocacy Awards: Honoring 8 TV Stars Who Give Back

Kate Hahn
Advocacy awards

Clockwise from top left: Courtesy of Thanks Mom and Dad Fund; Sugar Rush Photography; ©Oceana; Jaime Rau, for International Justice Mission

Our favorite shows can take us on emotional journeys, open our minds and help us forget about our daily stress for a while. But the work of creators and stars doesn’t stop at the edges of our screens. Many give their time and resources to a range of causes and charities. We honor their generosity at the 2nd Annual TV Guide Magazine Advocacy Awards. In this special section, you can learn how our eight honorees are giving back.

To make these awards possible, TV Guide Magazine and TV Insider have partnered with The Creative Coalition, a national nonprofit organization that brings together artists and entertainers to learn about pressing national issues and use their voices to inform and influence the world.

“People in the entertainment industry have a unique platform. They can reach millions and millions of people, and they can move the social welfare barometer,” says Robin Bronk, CEO of the Coalition. “We make sure that the arts thrive in America, and that the artists and entertainers use their power to support the common good.”

The Creative Coalition was founded in 1989 by Ron Silver. Members include actors, writers, producers and other leaders in the entertainment industry. Madam Secretary’s Tim Daly currently serves as president.

“These awards call attention to those who pay it forward,” Bronk says. “There is a need for those in the entertainment industry to do well by doing good. When our actors or leaders get involved in social welfare issues, it’s one of the most selfless acts that they can do. They’re not making any money from it. They really are giving back to the community.”

Tony Hale, advocacy awards

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Tony Hale (Veep, HBO)

International Justice Mission

Tony Hale has built a career on playing comedic characters who can’t speak up for themselves: He’s won two Emmys for his work as the perpetually un-appreciated and forlorn personal assistant to former president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on HBO’s Veep, and before that, he starred as neurotic mama’s boy Buster Bluth on the groundbreaking, quirky sitcom Arrested Development.

But off camera, Hale speaks up loudly for the world’s largest global antislavery organization, the International Justice Mission (IJM).

The horror of human trafficking hit home for Hale when he attended an IJM fundraiser and learned that more than 45 million people globally are held in slavery, with 2 million children estimated to be in the commercial sex trade.

“I have a 10-year-old daughter, and I couldn’t forget the stories of children half her age forced into trafficking. It’s heartbreaking,” Hale says. “Hearing the profound difference IJM makes in victims’ lives blew me away. Last year they rescued more than 4,100 victims from slavery.”

Hale’s most recent efforts on behalf of IJM took place in real-life Veep territory (minus the bumbling comedy part, of course) when he joined IJM team members for meetings on Capitol Hill to help push through the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act.

“The act is a game-changer and would start a global fund to finally put a dent in the atrocious $150 billion business of slavery,” Hale says.

Until its many victims are free, Hale won’t be silent. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed about the suffering and injustice in the world,” he says. “Working with IJM, I see the power of my voice in bringing awareness.”

Derek Hough, advocacy awards

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Derek Hough (Dancing With the Stars, ABC)

One Life at a Time and Sophie’s Place

On the dance floor, Derek Hough is the perfect lead. He has tangoed and quickstepped with famous folks like Amber Riley to a total of six first-place wins on ABC competition series Dancing With the Stars—and earned two Emmys for Outstanding Choreography. But when it comes to his charity work, “I try to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Hough says. “He always taught me the importance of service.”

His father, Bruce Hough, is the vice chairman of the board of One Life at a Time, which teaches self-sufficiency through education to young-adult students in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. In exchange for free lessons in English, computer skills, graphics and entrepreneurship, students volunteer at places such as orphanages and hospitals.

“It’s that philosophy, ‘Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime,’” says Derek, who supports One Life at a Time by helping with fundraising and donating money from personal appearances. He plans to get a firsthand look at their work in Peru on a family trip this Christmas.

But that’s not all the busy Houghs do to help out. Derek and his sister, DWTS judge Julianne Hough, are also involved with Sophie’s Place, which creates dedicated music-therapy facilities in children’s hospitals. The siblings have attended opening ceremonies for the centers, where they cheer up young patients suffering from pain, chronic illness or serious injury with song, play and a little fancy footwork.

“Success is more than just gaining and obtaining,” says Hough, who has returned to DWTS and soon stars in NBC’s Hairspray Live! “It’s finding what brings purpose and value to your life. For me, that’s drawing attention off yourself and toward others.”

Michael Kelly, advocacy awards

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Michael Kelly (House of Cards, Netflix)

Thanks Mom & Dad Fund

When Michael Kelly accepts his Advocacy Award, the first people he says he’ll thank are his parents. After all, he’s being honored for his work with the Thanks Mom & Dad Fund, founded by his mom, Maureen Kelly.

TMDF raises funds and makes grants to agencies and programs supporting seniors with services like home-delivered meals, adult daycare, rides to the doctor’s office and more.

“It is our duty as younger people to take care of those who took care of us,” Kelly says. “They got us where we are. A mom, dad, grandparent, mentor—whoever it might be—they were key in who we became.”

It’s kinder and gentler than anything you’d hear from Kelly’s character on the Netflix drama House of Cards, where he plays cold, calculating Doug Stamper, right-hand man to power-hungry President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey).

This year, Kelly and others from the fund visited Stamper territory. They met with members of Congress and secured reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, enacted in 1965, which provides support for seniors in our country.

“It’s surreal for me that in D.C., Doug Stamper’s a rock star,” says Kelly, who is often stopped for photos in the nation’s Capitol.

But Kelly will take a million selfies with Hill staffers if it raises awareness of the dire need for senior care our nation faces.

“By 2050, the population of older Americans is expected to double,” says Kelly. “We don’t have adequate services or support.”

To meet that need, Kelly—currently filming Season 5 of House of Cards—is working to expand the Thanks Mom & Dad Fund. “It’s going to take a big endowment, but we’re getting there.”

Sandra Lee, advocacy awards

Matthias Clamer/Courtesy of Sandra Lee

Sandra Lee (Good Morning America, ABC)

Stand Up to Cancer

Sandra Lee has always been the best girlfriend any homemaker could have. Through series such as Food Network’s Semi-Homemade Cooking and Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, books, a special correspondent gig on Good Morning America and an upcoming column in TV Guide Magazine, the Daytime Emmy winner has shown a generation how to live well—with less stress.

So when Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer 18 months ago, she decided to do what any best friend would: share her experience to help other women.

“I have spent my entire career making sure overextended homemakers have a sister and advocate who is open and honest about the ways she can make their lives better,” Lee says. “I wouldn’t feel authentic to myself or to my relationship to my fans if I didn’t open up on what was going on.”

Lee has been public about her decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She also has been active with Stand Up to Cancer and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“My work is awareness, patient advocacy, changing policy, fundraising, contribution and association,” Lee says.

This fall, Lee launches a 10-city U.S. tour that will combine what she has always done with her new mission: “I will be doing personal appearances and cooking classes, as well as solicitations of the state governors for meetings.”

Lee wants other women dealing with breast cancer—or just trying to get their insurance company to pay for a mammogram—to know it can be a struggle, but they are their own best advocates.

“It’s hard, and I am still learning every single day, but you have to start somewhere,” Lee says. “Where you start is taking control of your own health.”

Niecy Nash, advocacy awards

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Niecy Nash (Scream Queens, Fox & Getting On, HBO)

Amazing Grace Conservatory

A two-time Emmy nominee for her performance as empathetic nurse DiDi Ortley on the HBO comedy Getting On, Niecy Nash still remembers what it was like to be a young girl in Compton with dreams of becoming an actress and no idea how to make them come true.

“When you are growing up in the inner city, Hollywood feels so far away,” says Nash. “There was no one to guide me. There wasn’t a theater school in my community.”

That personal experience is precisely why Nash is so dedicated to the Amazing Grace Conservatory (AGC), which offers training in acting, dance and voice for at-risk youth, culminating in three annual musicals, either original or preexisting in the Broadway canon. The AGC is located in Southern Los Angeles, just a stone’s throw from where Nash grew up.

“To have a place that has an afterschool program where you can learn your craft, perform on a real stage and learn from people you see on television, is a gift,” says the actress.

Nash is also a speaker at the school, and AGC is the charity she plays for when she appears on shows like Hollywood Game Night or Celebrity Family Feud.

Even her three children trained at AGC, joining classmates who have gone on to attend such prestigious schools as Yale and Juilliard.

Those success stories mean everything to the extremely busy Nash—whose current TV projects include Fox’s Scream Queens, Showtime’s Masters of Sex and TNT’s upcoming Claws—and they reaffirm her support for AGC.

“When you have a person saying, ‘I will help you, I will show up and I will grow you,’ I can absolutely get behind that,” Nash says with a smile.

Dean Norris, advocacy awards

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Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory, CBS & Girlboss, Netflix)

Wounded Warrior Project

Dean Norris has played a lot of tough guys—military men, law enforcement officers and most famously DEA agent Hank Schrader in one of television’s greatest series ever, AMC’s Breaking Bad. And if that’s not macho enough, he’s about to start shooting a remake of Death Wish with Bruce Willis. (Also coming up: a stint on The Big Bang Theory and in Netflix’s Girlboss.)

But Norris is all earnestness and no swagger when he talks about supporting this generation of injured veterans through the Wounded Warrior Project.

“There are men and women putting their lives at risk every day and really suffering in order to keep us safe,” Norris says. “The lucky ones come back alive but often damaged. There’s a lot of pain out there.”

The Wounded Warrior Project helps to alleviate that pain by providing free programs and services to veterans and their families, with a focus on their physical, mental and long-term financial well-being.

One way Norris contributes is by visiting wounded vets at the medical facility in Camp Pendleton near his California home.

“They like to take pictures and stuff. And I always feel slightly embarrassed because what they do is so heroic, and what I do is small in comparison,” says the actor, who also plays for the Wounded Warrior Project in charity golf and poker tournaments.

WWP’s newest program helps veterans find treatment for the invisible wounds of war: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“Many who have served our country now have psychological issues. Suicide is a big problem,” says Norris, whose Breaking Bad character suffered from PTSD in the show’s second season. “What I’d really love is for more people to be aware of veterans on a daily basis.”

Reid Scott, advocacy awards

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Reid Scott (Veep, HBO)

Oceana

On the HBO comedy Veep, Reid Scott plays smarmy Washington, D.C., political operative Dan Egan, who lobbies for some not-so-worthy causes. But when the actor went to Capitol Hill recently, it was to speak with members of Congress about the worthy work of Oceana, which campaigns to protect and restore the world’s oceans.

“It was very different than Veep. You’re not wining and dining people. You’ve got 15 minutes to talk about something really important. We traipsed from office to office and probably walked 10 miles,” says Scott, whose interest in ocean conservation grew after he moved to L.A. and learned to surf and sail. “By the end of the day, we had enough signatures to get our bill pushed through.”

That bill is the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act, now before Congress. It aims to protect Atlantic marine life from a process used to search for oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor. Gun blasts are of special concern for fish, turtles and whales, as they depend on sound for communication and survival.

Besides keeping Nemo and Flipper safe from environmental pollution, Oceana also works to end the practice of overfishing.

“Overfishing is unconscionable,” Scott says. “Radically depleting species disrupts the balance of the ecosystem. Ocean temperatures, algae and plankton change. That affects the atmosphere and kicks in global warming.”

Seeing how everything is connected has inspired Scott to live a more eco-friendly life in general. “Oceana opened my eyes to environmental causes,” says Scott, whose home is now a model of water conservation. “I considered myself kind of a hippie environmentalist before. Now, I’m borderline obsessed.”

Jill Soloway, advocacy awards

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Jill Soloway (Transparent, Amazon)

LGBTQ and Trans Advocacy

There is not a series on television that so fearlessly examines the personal experience of its writer and producer more than Emmy-winning Jill Soloway’s critically acclaimed Amazon comedy Transparent. It is based on Soloway’s father coming out to her as transgender at age 73—and how that forced the family to reexamine their own lives.

“It was incredibly brave,” Soloway says of the revelation made by the parent she now refers to as her Moppa. “This was a few years before the creation of Transparent [which debuted in 2014]. You could barely find representations of trans people in TV or film. When you did, their characters were often punchlines, victims or villains.”

Soloway, already a successful TV writer and producer on shows like Six Feet Under and United States of Tara, chose to fight transgender stereotyping with storytelling. “I created Transparent hoping to make the world a more welcoming place for trans people and to create a tribute to my family, to TV and to TV families,” she says.

The Transparent family quickly became beloved by viewers—and Hollywood—with Jeffrey Tambor winning a 2015 Emmy for portraying central character Maura (formerly Mort) Pfefferman.

The show also has a trans–affirmative action hiring policy. “So far we’ve had over 150 trans and gender-nonconforming crew members, background actors and those with speaking roles,” Soloway says.

And though Soloway has helped trans people make strides in Hollywood, she hopes Transparent is just the beginning.

“The trans community is bigger than you think,” Soloway says. “It’s diverse and comes from every walk of life. We need more reflections of LGBTQ lives in the media to match that.”

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