December 27, 1973
Brooklyn, New York, United States
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After vaulting to fame as the sympathetic high schooler Ricky Vasquez on "My So-Called Life" (ABC, 1994-95), actor and activist Wilson Cruz was dedicated to portraying gay characters in a positive and nuanced light in such projects as the Broadway musical "Rent" and television series like "Star Trek: Discovery" (CBS All Access, 2017- ). Born Wilson Echevarria to Puerto Rican parents in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on December 27, 1973, Cruz began performing in stage productions at an early age, and toured the country as a member of the Young Americans goodwill charity. He relocated with his family to Rialto, California, where he performed in the school choir and band at Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in 1991. Shortly after graduation, he came out to his parents as gay, which prompted his father to throw him out of their house. Cruz lived in his car and with friends for a period of time until he relocated to Hollywood, where he made his television debut on the short-lived sitcom "Great Scott!" (Fox, 1992). Two years later, Cruz was cast as Ricky, an openly gay high schooler and confidante to Claire Danes' conflicted lead on "My So-Called Life." The drama drew praise for its realistic portrayal of teenage life, with a subplot involving Cruz's removal from his home for coming out earning him a Viewers for Quality Television Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. When "Life" came to an abrupt end after a single season, Cruz worked steadily on television, including a recurring stint as a nanny on the final season of "Party of Five" (Fox, 1994-2000) and appearances in features like Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995), as a servant of J. Edgar Hoover (Bob Hoskins) and the ill-fated drug dealer Andre "Angel" Melendez, whose brutal murder by promoter Michael Alig was depicted in "Party Monster" (2003). Cruz also played the cross-dressing street musician Angel in multiple productions of the musical "Rent," including the West Coast and Broadway runs - , and became a noted activist and advocate for LGBT youth, which included service with GLAAD as a member of the board of directors and national spokesperson. As he moved out of young adult roles, Cruz settled into turns as a character actor in features like "He's Just Not That Into You" (2009), but found more consistent work on episodic television. He played a love interest for Jonathan Scarfe's sexually conflicted lawyer on the Steve Bochco legal drama "Raising the Bar" (TNT, 2008-09) and nurse working with young hospital patients in the Fox comedy-drama "Red Band Society" (2015). His most significant role during this period came as a medical officer on "Star Trek: Discovery" (CBS All Access, 2017- ) who was romantically involved with Anthony Rapp's science officer. Their on-screen kiss was the first such occurrence in the long history of the "Star Trek" franchise.