Kevin Spacey Takes Center Stage With Cal Ripken at Washington Gala

Kevin Spacey - H 2015
Courtesy of Trigger Street Productions

The event raised money for The Kevin Spacey Foundation and The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

On Monday night, Kevin Spacey may have been in Washington, but he was far from embodying his House of Cards alter ego, devious President Frank Underwood. Instead, the actor-director-producer was raising money for his eponymous charity, The Kevin Spacey Foundation, which supports youth who show an interest in the arts.

The night marked the foundation’s sixth gala — the third one held in the nation’s capital — and featured impressions from Spacey (Donald Trump and Bill Clinton) as well as an actor spoofing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Amid the laughter, Spacey discussed the importance of giving back.

“After a while, money is so valuable when we use it for really incredible things. When I do workshops now, it’s such an extraordinary thing to watch a young person suddenly realize something about themselves that they never knew. A capacity. A sense of being able to communicate, collaborate,” Spacey said. “I feel so fortunate that when I was young, that an older person said just the right thing to me at just the right time and it changed my life.”

This year, Spacey shared the stage with baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. thanks to a collaboration with The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, named after Ripken’s late father. The event featured a discussion between Spacey and Ripken hosted by CNN anchor Dana Bash, and opened with a routine by comedian Chris Distefano.

“[Spacey and I] had similar interests, so we collaborated on a project and liked it, and decided to learn more about each other,” Ripken told The Hollywood Reporter about partnering with KSF. “This is an attempt to spread out a little bit, to use the resources in a different way.”

The two foundations were brought together almost two years ago through the U.S. launch of Home Grown, which aims to foster the creative talents of underserved youth. A highlight of the initiative included an intensive two-week program in the Middle East, where 35 aspiring actors trained and performed a play that ran for three days in the Sharjah Heritage area.

Like Spacey’s foundation, Ripken’s group support and encourage at-risk young people through athleticism. 

“In the end, it’s all about helping the kids, whether you introduce them to the arts or you communicate with them through sport. In the end, we get a chance to get in front of the kids and make a difference in their lives,” Ripken said.

Since founding KSF in the United Kingdom in 2010 and launching it in the United States in 2013, Spacey has worked with all ages, helping kids to get ahead in the creative fields, particularly those without the opportunities or mentors to do so. The inspiration to give back, which has now become one of Spacey’s distinguishing characteristics aside from his Academy and Tony Awards, comes from his late mentor, Jack Lemmon.

“Jack always used to have this wonderful kind of philosophy, which was, if you’ve done well in the business that you want to do well in, then it’s your obligation to send the elevator back down. It may well be because Jack Lemmon was born in an elevator,” Spacey joked during the gala. “[He] was a person who, no matter what Hollywood glory came his way, it never affected him. He cared about people, and a huge reason why I started my foundation was because of him.”

Now, Spacey’s foundation has three main components: KSF Learning, which includes Home Grown, KSF Grants (which offers up to $10,000 to emerging artists in the U.K. and U.S.), and KSF Scholarships (which partners with Regent’s University and Pace University to assist talented undergraduates pursue B.A. degrees in the arts). A primary source of funding for the organization is through the annual gala. This year saw more than $300,000 raised during the gala’s auction, when a Spacey-led tour of the House of Cards set fetched $40,000 from three different parties and a bottle of wine went for nearly $3,000.

“I think [collaboration] is a fantastic idea. I think more people should do it. We benefit each other’s ideas. I also think it makes for a more interesting evening,” Spacey said.

Ripken also stressed the value of reaching audiences from multiple industries.

“You’re reaching into a pocket of people who care. You expose them to sport or you expose them to the arts, and you broaden your appeal. It’s reaching the people who will help support the kids,” he said.

The event was followed by a VIP reception at the Catwalk Cafe. Notable guests included Congressman and KSF Honorary Event Chair Kevin McCarthy, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and House of Cards actor Nathan Darrow.