While the Actors Fund has been a lifeline for millions working in entertainment for more than 140 years, the organization doesn’t just help those on stage or in front of the camera. It also includes people behind the scenes, which is why it recently changed its name to the Entertainment Community Fund.
The fund has helped actor-singer Javier Munoz, who said his life was upended 20 years ago after an HIV diagnosis.
“I remember having about three days of shutting down, physically and mentally, and really just not, in such shock,” he told CBS News about his reaction to the diagnosis. “And then I just woke up and said, ‘You got…you gotta take care of you,’ right? ‘So what are you gonna do?'”
That’s when he turned to the Actors Fund for help.
“I wasn’t just walking in as a number, a statistic, you know,” Munoz said. “It was about getting health insurance, about what I could afford and make work: finding a doctor that could work with that, needing counseling, someone to talk to about the side effects of what it feels like.”
Munoz, who famously took over the iconic role of Alexander Hamilton from Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Broadway show, said he now has a lifelong gratitude to the fund.
“I’m living proof today that what you do makes such a difference,” he said during his “Hamilton” curtain call.
Lyricist and composer Amanda Green said she’s also forever indebted to the nonprofit after it helped her mother, actress Phyliss Newman, as she battled breast cancer in the 1980s.
“She went through it, and at the time it was kind of something that it was taboo to talk about,” Green told CBS News. “And she also saw no safety net for women in the industry. And she founded the Women’s Health Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. So it’s really an incredible, incredible arm of the Actors Fund.”
The organization’s new name now better reflects all the people it serves — anyone and everyone in theater, film, television, radio, music, dance, opera and circus.
“The thing that a lotta people don’t understand about, I think, show business, is, you know, you think of show business, you think famous actors,” said Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, who has been the chairman of the fund for 18 years. “And those famous actors are making a gajillion dollars a picture. And that’s not the reality. The reality is most people are gig workers, going from job to job to job. And a lotta people are just a paycheck away from poverty.”
He told CBS News the pandemic highlighted the necessity of this lifeline.
“Since the pandemic has started, we have given away more than $26.8 million to almost 18,000 people now,” Mitchell said. “And one of the things that I realized, is when you’re feeling terrible, when you’re at your worst, help somebody else. That’ll get you out of that.”