Actor Justin Baldoni stars in the CW TV series JANE THE VIRGIN, He plays a cancer survivor, which is a topic he is very acquainted with. Baldoni has spent the last few years working closely with people who have been through similar trials. Wayfarer Entertainment is Baldoni's production company, his team of documentary filmmakers produce material that he says can create positive change in the world. After viewing his documentaries ‘MY LAST DAYS’ and ‘STORIES FROM THE STREET’, it becomes obvious very quickly why he feels strongly towards the films. Spending an incredible amount of time with his subjects Baldoni documents hours of intimate footage of the lives of people suffering in one way or another, whether its a person with terminal cancer or a street dweller, his projects create a spiritual shift hard to find in most mediums.
AGB: A lot of the content you have on Wayfarer is hard for me to watch, and I would think the same for most people. You get into people’s lives in a profound way. You have such compassion and are able to get to the heart of the situation. I’m wondering how you deal with the emotion of the situation? Is it something that has come to you naturally and evolved with time, or does it come from your family and upbringing?
JB: Truthfully, and not to jump into faith immediately, but the way that I’m able to cope is because I was brought up in the Bahá’í faith. In the Bahá’í faith, (the worlds newest religion) our life and work is supposed to be our service; it’s about ‘the abundance of deeds and the fewness of words’. We are asked that everything we do be of service to humanity. It’s not about religion as much as it’s about doing. I feel the most connected to myself, to the Universe, and to people when I’m living in a state of service and when I can lose myself in the lives of other people, in their pain and their joy. In some ways I’m able to feel my own more intensely afterwards.
I hope I’m making sense. It’s like any artist who needs to feel the extremes to create, I don’t think anything amazing comes from the middle. There’s a beauty about feeling something, and feeling it at the same time as the people you are with. I go through so many different feelings with different projects. For instance with ‘STORIES FROM THE STREET’ I feel a different kind of pain than with ‘MY LAST DAY’S
I see the way we ignore the homeless when we walk down the street. We don’t want to make eye contact with them—not because we are bad people but because we are going to feel a sense of responsibility the second we look into that person’s eyes. We are human beings, and as human beings it’s our nature to connect. I feel a bit angry because I don’t think there should ever be a human being that should be without shelter and food. I think there are enough resources in the world that if we could find a spiritual solution, we could solve these issues.
Then when I’m with the families of ‘MY LAST DAYS’, I feel connected to God more than ever. I feel their pain and at the same time I feel deeply inspired. It makes me reflect on my own mortality and the limited amount of time I have to create change. There’s no one answer on how I cope—it’s the process in this type of service that is unique and brings about its own type of joy.
AGB: With ‘STORIES FROM THE STREET’ did you find organizations that wanted to contribute and help you?
JB: We reached out to a lot of organizations at first, and most of them turned us down because there are so many laws for nonprofits. There’s so much red tape in regards to privacy. The way we shoot these stories is that I drive around Los Angeles and wait to see someone. I look at them in the eye or I get a feeling about them and I’ll stop the car. I introduce myself and we start having a conversation. I’ll buy them various meals throughout the day and I’ll put them up in a hotel for the night as a thank you. Sometimes we go back after the shooting to see how they’re doing, although they are usually hard to find because they move around. Some have actually gotten off the streets, which is great.
We are continually looking for projects like that where we can have a tangible effect. The documentary’s mission is not to end homelessness, it is to create awareness and to have the homeless be treated better. Maybe if one by one people take the initiative to start talking to the homeless, connect with them in some way, we may be able to help these people off the streets. That’s how I think a change is going to happen.
AGB: What are you working on at this moment?
JB: Wayfarer Entertainment, the company I founded, has a mission and a goal to create content that promotes change and elevates humanity. I think that most content out there is numbing us so that we can feel better about being our worst. It’s making it feel acceptable to be lesser versions of the people we want to be. At Wayfarer, we want to inspire and elevate people to be the best versions of themselves. Right now we are producing a lot of different reality and unscripted shows to compete with the crap that’s out there. We believe that people are ready to feel—to feel good and feel deeply—and I think that we are at a point in our evolution in humanity that we need this inspiration and this content We have recently created a documentary that’s coming out soon on Sam Simon who created THE SIMONS. He’s dying of cancer. His life is so amazing. He has spent most of it giving back to animals. He’s been a generous supporter of PETA—they even named a building after him. He also supports Feed The Children, personally feeding 400 families a day. He’s doing so many amazing things, and Wayfarer is telling his story.
AGB: So you took some time off acting for a few years to focus on your film company, but you have an exciting television project now. How do you handle all your projects now that you have so much on your plate?
JB: There’s a Bahá’í saying: “Where there is love there is time, nothing is too much trouble.