Hollywood's Creative Coalition Calls for More Arts Education at DC Gala

The Creative Coalition's 2019-Getty-H 2019
Paul Morigi/Getty Images The Creative Coalition

'Barry' breakout star Anthony Carrigan spoke with The Hollywood Reporter at the annual #RightToBearArts event about how, without children's theater, Noho Hank may not have existed.

The Creative Coalition may have skipped the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year — Congress wasn’t in session, explains CEO Robin Bronk, so they postponed their annual visit to Washington, D.C., until they were able to advocate for the arts in person. But Thursday, the delegation, led by president Tim Daly (Madam Secretary) and bolstered by a roster of actors including Harry Hamlin (Mad Men), Steve Howey (Shameless) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs), spent the day on Capitol Hill talking to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle about the critical importance of arts in underfunded communities and the need to continue fighting to keep the National Endowment for the Arts alive.

“Over the last several years we’ve built up a lot of goodwill because we’re a dedicated nonpartisan organization,” says Daly. “We [work] to dispel this misconception about arts and artists as something that’s extra…a luxury item. It’s actually the one organization that gives grants in every congressional district in the U.S., so the people who benefit from the NEA are people in rural communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access.”

At the annual #RightToBearArts gala, co-hosted with Optune, first-timer Anthony Rapp told THR that he was “blown away” by the experience. Rapp’s brother, who currently works on the Hill, had previously worked for the Obama administration, and Rapp acknowledged that he was pleasantly surprised by how well the Coalition's efforts were received.

“We spoke to two members of the Trump administration in the public liaison office. They really engaged with us, so I have this impression that there are people in this administration who are trying to do the right thing," he said. "I was struck by what it must be like…to make a change from the inside. At least, that’s what it felt like. I don’t think they were giving us lip service. Maybe they’re really good actors, but I don’t think so.”

“It felt like the need for us to be here was stronger — they wanted a lot of information and they were taking it seriously. It didn’t feel like as much of a courtesy; it felt more like an educational meeting,” Shiri Appleby (Unreal) told THR.

Anthony Carrigan, who plays the Chechan mobster Noho Hank opposite Bill Hader on HBO’s Barry, told THR that their delegation had a “beautiful moment” during their visit to Trump’s Public Liaison office. "We really connected with them on a human level. All of us who are here today were affected by the arts in such a major way. At some point, every American has an experience where art has moved them, has shifted their perspective, and it has forced them to think creatively."

For Carrigan, that moment came when he saw his first performance at a children’s theater in Winchester, Mass., when he was eight years old. “Growing up, I had alopecia — I was so shy, I was bullied all the time, I had no confidence. And as soon as I did my first show at our local children’s theater, all of a sudden I discovered I had a voice. I could express myself, I had confidence. there was this part of me that was lying dormant inside my shy shell and I wanted to express these things to people, all of these things that I was feeling but had no outlet for. It changed me dramatically as a person.”

"And not only did I have alopecia," Carrigan continues, "but I had also been diagnosed with a learning disability. I had a problem with motor skills and keeping track of tasks. The irony is that now that’s what I do for a living." And he’ll keep doing it: Barry, Carrigan tells us, was just renewed for a third season. "I’m just so grateful for every moment I get on that show."