Logo Trailblazer Honors: 'My So-Called Life' Alum Wilson Cruz Remembers Orlando Victim Brenda McCool
In this exclusive clip from the special that taped Thursday night and airs Saturday, the actor, who will next appear on ABC's 'Mistresses,' tells the story of his mother's stepsister, who was killed in the June 12 massacre.
Actor Wilson Cruz, best known for his role on My So-Called Life, was among the stars who took the stage Thursday night at Logo's third-annual Trailblazer Honors special. The event, which airs Saturday and honors pioneers in the fight for equality, was this year dedicated to the victims of the shooting at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla.
Cruz's mother's stepsister, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, was among the people gunned down, and he spent a few minutes at Trailblazer Honors telling her story.
Cruz explained that she loved to dance, especially to salsa music, and the last time he saw her it was in his mother's kitchen in Orlando when she told him that her son Isaiah had recently come out. McCool, who Cruz said was a "mother of 11 and mother figure to many more," vowed to protect Isaiah, which is just what she did in her last act on June 12.
"For so many Latino LGBT youths, Latin nights at clubs like Pulse are a refuge. They're the first places we can celebrate our love of our music, our culture and who we are," said Cruz. "For Brenda, it was the place she could spend time with her son where he was his most authentic self. And it was beautiful. On the night we lost 49 community members and allies, Brenda protected her son by jumping in front of the gun. She had beat cancer twice so maybe she thought she was indestructible. But more likely it was instinct — a lioness protecting her cub. I want people to remember Brenda McCool's name. She's a hero, not only because she saved Isaiah's life that night, but because she was a proud and fierce advocate for all of her LGBT family."
He continued: "So to honor all of the innocent lives we lost, our community must stay visible and stay proud. Brenda would want that. She'd want us to get back out there and dance. And I, for one, don't intend to let her down."
With that, Cruz did a bit of salsa dancing in place, and it was clear he had already moved Emma Stone and honoree Billie Jean King, who took the stage next.
His remarks also seemed to cause Chloe Grace Moretz, who later presented another Trailblazer Honors award, to cry as she can be seen wiping away tears in the below video, which The Hollywood Reporter is exclusively debuting.
Cruz told THR on the red carpet ahead of Thursday night's taping in New York that he was there because he wanted to make sure McCool wasn't forgotten and that people knew what kind of mother she was.
"She was devoted and showed unconditional love to all of us," he said. "And I want people to remember her and her name, and if I can be here tonight to shed a little light on who she was as a person, that's why I wanted to be here."
The longtime LGBT advocate will next appear on ABC's Mistresses in a recurring role and is the executive producer of the upcoming documentary Out of the Box: How America Came Out on TV. The actor's past TV credits also include Fox's Red Band Society and Logo's Noah's Arc.
When asked what message he has for the LGBT community in the wake of the shooting, Cruz told THR, "I think I want them to remember that this movement has shed a lot of blood. This is not the first time we have seen violence acted upon our community. It is the worst example of it," he said, citing the Stonewall riots and transgender lives lost. "It's time that we put our attention on the violence that is acted upon our community, and I think because we turn our gaze to it, we can make the kind of difference we made with marriage equality, we can do that same thing with gun violence. I think as a collective voice we're powerful and we can make a real difference."
Trailblazer Honors will be simulcast on Logo and VH1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Saturday.