Actor, director and producer Tony Goldwyn took to the Bender Arena stage last night to chat about his role as President Fitzgerald Grant on ABC’s “Scandal,” politics and criminal justice reform at the Kennedy Political Union’s annual “All American Weekend” event.
During his talk, which was moderated by AU professor Stef Woods, Goldwyn told students that their voices matter in this election. He said he believes that voting is a form of activism and that everyone should participate. Goldwyn urged the audience to vote in the presidential election and spoke about how he has been campaigning for Hillary Clinton for the past several months.
“I have always felt as an American, that because I have the right to vote, because I have the right to use my voice, that right is a responsibility,” Goldwyn said.
While he has enjoyed being on the campaign trail and meeting people from around the nation, Goldwyn said he has found it frustrating that many people are voting for candidates without doing any research on their policy positions. It is crucial to make an informed decision when casting your vote, Goldwyn said.
“The most upsetting thing I find is the degree to which people are ill-informed,” Goldwyn said. “More than 50 percent of the people that I have talked to, when I start to ask them why [they are voting for someone], they don’t really have any depth of knowledge.”
Goldwyn told The Eagle in an interview prior to the event that he predicts Clinton is going to win the election in November, but that nothing can be taken for granted.
“[Donald Trump’s] narcissism is starting to get the better of him, finally, because he frames everything in terms of himself, so it is very difficult for him to engage in a policy conversation,” Goldwyn said. “I think he is much less informed than you know he should be, and I don’t find real coherence in his policy positions.”
Goldwyn also told The Eagle about the unique feeling of being a president on screen during the time of an actual presidential election, and how Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the show, approaches writing what happens next for the characters.
“It’s completely surreal,” Goldwyn said. “I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe, and as you can imagine, that’s all we talk about at “Scandal,” and Shonda’s sort of written a parallel – we are in the middle of an election on our show so she’s having a lot of fun writing about it and having her version of it told.”
Goldwyn said he enjoys his role on the show, and finds it interesting to watch the intersection between the current political environment and the content produced in “Scandal.”
“On “Scandal,” there is a chance we might have our first woman president just like in the real world, so it’s been fun,” Goldwyn told The Eagle. “We’ve had a lot of fun with living in the parallel world.”
Goldwyn discussed with the audience how much he appreciates Rhimes’ relentless drive to do better and how direct she is with what she wants to see happen on screen while also allowing space for actors to disagree with her and have an honest conversation about their ideas.
“She challenges herself every day, and she challenges us every day,” Goldwyn said. “She constantly challenges me and I have just learned so much from her.”
During the event, Goldwyn also spoke about his work with the Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to exonerate the wrongly convicted, and urged students, especially those studying law, to take an interest in criminal justice reform and get involved.
"I cannot imagine me spending one night in prison, even for a crime I did commit, so to spend years and often decades behind bars as an innocent man is incomprehensible to me,” Goldwyn said.
Goldwyn said his status as a celebrity is a way for him to take a stand and make a difference. Ultimately, everyone has a responsibility to be an activist on some level, and it has to begin with the individual taking charge for change to happen.
“I feel that celebrities are granted a big platform and that’s a tremendous opportunity for activism,” Goldwyn told The Eagle. “I feel that every American has the right and therefore the responsibility to use their voice to affect positive change in their community, in their family, in their world, and I believe all activism starts locally, start with your family, and your friends and work out from there.”