‘My So-Called Life’ Turns 25: Wilson Cruz Pays Tribute To Groundbreaking Character That Changed His Life

The actor looks looks back on his trailblazing role on the powerful teen drama.

Actor Wilson Cruz attends the #IMDboat At San Diego Comic-Con 2018: Day Two at The IMDb Yacht on July 20, 2018 in San Diego, California.
Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

The actor looks looks back on his trailblazing role on the powerful teen drama.

My So-Called Life, the 1990s ABC teen drama that aired for only 19 episodes, but went on to cult status with heavy rotation reruns on MTV, has turned 25. The drama series created by Winnie Holzman debuted on August 25, 1994, as it introduced the world to 15-year-old Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and her family and friends.

While the characters on My-So Called Life are all memorable, the character Rickie Vasquez was groundbreaking. Long before shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek featured gay teen characters, MSCL gave viewers Rickie, one of the first — if not the first — TV teens to openly say he was gay.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of My So-Called Life, Wilson Cruz, who played Angela’s best friend, Rickie, on the show, posted an Instagram tribute to the series that kicked off his career. The post featured a side-by-side snap of Cruz at 19-years-old and today, as he shows off his ripped physique 25 years later.

In a poignant post, the now 45-year-old actor revealed that his My So-Called Life character changed his life. Cruz wrote that Rickie taught him to always lead with his heart, and that friends and love are the most important things in life. The actor also said that he hopes he raised Rickie well, as he moves on in the role of Dr. Hugh Culber on Star Trek: Discovery.

My So-Called Life fans hit the comments section to tell Cruz that his pioneering character changed their lives as well.

Earlier this year, Cruz, who came out to his family just as My So-Called Life debuted, told Variety that when his agent sent the script for the show, he wasn’t sure if she knew he was also gay in real life.

“I had made a deal with myself that I would come out if the series went. I wanted people to know that I, as a gay man — a gay boy at the time — really put my stamp of approval to what we were doing. So that’s when I told my parents, and that’s when I was kicked out.”

Cruz’s character’s life practically mirrored his own. The actor revealed that he lived on friends’ couches and in his car until he started filming the ABC series. On MSCL, Rickie was also kicked out of his family’s home in a gut-wrenching Christmas episode, “So-Called Angels.”

“When I look back on that whole experience, I think of my fictional world and my reality converging. It was cathartic,” Cruz said.

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While Rickie Vasquez didn’t say out loud that he was gay until My So-Called Life’s 19th episode, “In Dreams Come Responsibilities,” viewers were clued into his secret well before he came out to Delia Fisher (Senta Moses) in what would be the series finale. Rickie had an obvious attraction to his classmate, Corey Helfrick (Adam Biesk), so when Delia asked Rickie, “You’re gay, right?,” he finally admitted he was, then revealed that he had never said it out loud before.

Show creator Holzman later told Variety that Cruz received “touching and beautiful” fan mail after the episode aired, and that decades later, people tell her that they came out to their parents after watching Rickie on MSCL.

After serving as a trailblazer as an openly gay actor playing a gay teen in a leading role on a primetime television series, Cruz has continued as a groundbreaking voice both on- and off-screen for the LGBTQ community.

You can see Wilson Cruz talking about the My So-Called Life episode that changed him forever in the video below.