Alec Mapa stands up for equality
By Tim Parks
While actor and comedian Alec Mapa has brought laughter to the masses with his widely known characters on “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives,” it is his real-life role as an advocate for a wealth of GLBT causes, which he takes very seriously.
Mapa is scheduled to bring his unique brand of guffaw-ridden material to the Birch North Park Theatre on Friday, July 16 at 7:30, and will be kicking off Pride weekend along with fellow comedian Dana Goldberg for “Stand Up For Equality,” which is literally proudly presented by the Human Rights Campaign.
The very busy 45-year-old, who corresponded with The Rage Monthly via e-mail, dished about the end of “Ugly Betty,” a possible return to Wisteria Lane and his label of being “America’s Gaysian Sweetheart.”
The road to his reign supreme of the previously mentioned title began, circa 1987, with his first credited acting role as Peng in the ABC Afterschool Special entitled “Supermom’s Daughter.”
If he was able to write a new Afterschool Special, which tackled a multitude of teen angst from 1972 to 1997, he would script a high school melodrama that could speak to the youth of this country with “But I’m a Quarterback!”
“Here’s the premise: an absolute jock who bullies every single misfit in school gets knocked out at football practice,” he explained. “He wakes up in a gay teen’s body, the very one he harasses everyday and experiences what its like firsthand to be harassed and bullied 24/7.
“The gay teen ends up in the jock’s body for a day too, and REALLY enjoys the locker room for the first time. The jock, of course, wakes up wiser, more compassionate and, in my script, totally gay and in love with the big sissy.”
Writing is actually one of the many different hats that Mapa has worn during his tenure in the entertainment field; his hilarious one-man shows, such as last year’s No Fats, Femmes or Asians, don’t write themselves, after all.
“Diversification is a necessity for me,” he said of his all-encompassing work ethic. “I write and do stand up as a way of having a job regardless of whether or not someone gives me one. I’d love to sit around and eat tofutti all day, but Mama has a mortgage.”
And Mama Mapa has the skills to pay the bills, as was clearly evidenced with two of his most high profile turns as Gabby’s gay bestie Vern and fashion reporter Suzuki St. Pierre on “Desperate Housewives” and “Ugly Betty,” respectively.
“According to Marc Cherry, Vern did not die in the Wisteria Lane tornado, so you never know,” he said about the likelihood of a “Housewives” return.
As far as “Ugly Betty” and its recent cancellation are concerned, Mapa does not harbor any ill will towards the alphabet network.
“I’ve been an actor since the Dead Sea had a cold,” he quipped. “If I got bent every time the network pulled the plug, I’d never have lasted this long. I will miss my room at The Gramercy Park Hotel and Vanessa Williams. I had a very weird crush on her that even I can’t explain.”
Sounds like the stuff that starts tabloid rumors, and speaking of supposition, there have already been rumblings about a big screen version of “Betty.”
“If there’s a movie I’m sure I’ll be the last to know. They’ll totally call me a day before I shoot.”
Until that serendipitous day arrives, Mapa has his favorite memory of being on the show in his back pocket, like a well-worn hanky that signals potential employers to his professionalism.
“My happiest memory was my first table read,” he recanted. “I walked in and I knew all the writers, because I had worked on all of their shows. The part felt like a lovely reward for playing nicely with others.”
Currently Mapa will be playing himself (not with himself, gutter minds!) in the film adaptation of Andy Zeffer’s novel Going Down in LA-LA Land. He went about researching the role with “hours of Internet research.”
Acting as himself definitely suits this multifaceted performer, especially when it comes to being recognized as the aforementioned “America’s Gaysian Sweetheart.”
The Shakespearean quote “heavy is the head that wears the crown” doesn’t necessarily apply to having any added pressures attached to the moniker.
“The crown is actually very lightweight,” he said. “I love representing the GLBT community. Gay people make America beautiful. Seriously. We’ve been rebuilding this country, one shitty neighborhood at a time. We adopt and raise children others discard and we design hair, makeup and clothes, which is essentially art that all of us live in. The only pressure I feel is to please. I owe gay people everything.”
But, gay people also owe Mapa a great big thank you for his assiduous efforts to raise awareness for a multitude of GLBT-related causes. There is one in particular that means a great deal to him on a very personal level.
“The Trevor Project. They are a 24 hour GLBT teen suicide prevention hotline,” he stated. “I contemplated suicide when I was a gay teen, but I was lucky to have so many amazing gay mentors; people who told me that a whole universe existed outside of high school, and if I could just power through I’d not only survive, but thrive. Those gay men and women saved my life.”
It is Mapa’s gay it forward approach to being a true giver that aligned him with the Human Rights Campaign.
“I was a keynote speaker at a dinner in Cleveland in 2006,” he said of becoming involved with the organization. “That was ten dinners and ten cities ago. I’m proud of my work with them, and I love that I’ve toured the country and made friends everywhere.
“Recently I tweeted that I was stranded in Chicago, because of a missed flight. A friend I made at an HRC fundraiser came and got me, and I didn’t have to sleep in the lounge.”
Which brings us to his participation in “Stand Up For Equality,” and Mapa definitely believes that comedy can be a more effective platform to address the issues-at-hand.
“Absolutely. I can’t listen to anyone’s point of view if I’m bored. If someone makes me laugh, I not only listen, but I like them. There’s nothing more powerful than that.”
When asked about what hints that he could provide, as to the comedic topical creams that he will be slathering audiences with, Mapa was more than happy to provide a glimpse into the future, sans a crystal ball or even assistance from The Psychic Friends Network.
“Gay marriage, gay parents, and farts,” he answered. “But mostly farts.”
As far as to what he hopes that audiences will come away with from him relating his experiences on-stage, he had just one hope, albeit not a too far fetched wish.“Wet pants.”
Mapa is as humble as he is hilarious and said that it is “weird” to hear or see the word groundbreaking applied before or after his name, in recognition to being a trailblazin’ Asian.
“The only reason I’m here is because I’m standing in the giant gay footsteps of those who got here first. And they all had really, really nice shoes.”
For more information on the 21 and over “Stand Up For Equality” event, log onto birchnorthparktheatre.net and to purchase tickets, visit sandiegohrc.org.