Meet Joel de la Fuente

We are pleased to welcome Joel de la Fuente to Chapel Hill for his first appearance with PlayMakers. Joel portrays Gordon Hirabayashi in Hold These Truths, which opens tonight.

Joel de la Fuente

Gordon Hirabayashi, a second-generation Japanese American, was imprisoned for defying the federal government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Four decades later, he was vindicated when his conviction was overturned. President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Hirabayashi the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

When asked what it is like to portray Gordon Hirabayashi on stage, a role that earned de la Fuente a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, he said:

“By getting to play someone like Gordon, I’m free to experience something fully that I may normally be afraid to experience. Growing up as an Asian-American man, there are certain things that I have chosen or grown up in a way not fully experiencing. It’s an amazing gift to do that while also serving the greater story.” (Check out the full interview at The Chautauquan Daily)

Joel de la Fuente (Photo by Lia Chang)

While he is a regular on TV and in films, Joel is particularly passionate about theatre. He said he loved going to the movies and theatre as a child, but did not consider acting as a career option, since he saw very few actors who were Asian. “I almost never saw anyone that looked like me onscreen or onstage, and when I did, more often than not, I was embarrassed by it. Seeing Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanys or Charlie Chan movies on TV on Saturday afternoons made me ashamed. Pat Morita and George Takei were God-sends, because they looked like me AND they sounded and acted like me in a community of peers that I recognized. But those were exceptions. (Check out the full interview at asiansonfilm.com)

After starting out backstage, he followed the advice of teachers who encouraged him to have a well-rounded theatre experience by trying his hand at acting. “I acted in a student directed one-act play — and I was hooked. I spent the rest of my time in high school acting.” But, it was not until college that he began to truly feel drawn in. “Part of it was being in a bigger community of people who were really talented and inspirational. Part of it was coming to terms for the first time with my Asian heritage and beginning to incorporate that into my identity.”

Don’t miss Joel de la Fuente onstage in Hold These Truths! Call our box office at 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website to get your tickets. Hold These Truths will be performed at PlayMakers April 23-27.

For more about Joel, check out his website here.