Actor Justin Baldoni
Making a Difference Through Entertainment and Social Media
Born in 1984 in Los Angeles, California, Justin Baldoni was raised in Medford, Oregon with a Jewish and Italian background. Raised in the Bahá’í Faith, Baldoni strives to make his work a form of service. He has appeared in television shows and films including Disney Channel’s e Suite Life of Zack & Cody and NBC’s Heroes, which led to a leading role in the award-winning TV show, Jane the Virgin. Tokyo Journal Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie spoke to Baldoni about his experience taking part in the Youth and Leadership Panel at the Dalai Lama’s Global Compassion Summit, the importance of his Bahá’í Faith and how it has become the basis for a few of his current and upcoming projects.
TJ: Why do you think you were recommended to be part of the Youth Leadership Panel at the Global Compassion Summit?
BALDONI: From what I heard, the panel was looking for celebrities — people who are somewhat recognizable, that have some sort of influence on social media and that are trying to do good with what their platform is. For me, I had been trying to figure out a way to be of service and effect change before I had any sort of platform. About three years ago I started my production company, Wayfarer Entertainment, with the mission to create content — television, film and digital, that reminds us how beautiful life can be and inspires us to be the best versions of ourselves. I am so thrilled to announce that we have a three-night television event coming to The CW in August called My Last Days. It is an inspirational look at life told by incredible people who are living with a terminal illness. Creating and shooting this show has been one of the greatest and most difficult experiences of my life. The first season premiered online and became one of the most watched digital documentary series ever with over 30 million views. Now we are taking it to broadcast television airing in conjunction with The CW network launching their new digital platform (in partnership with Wayfarer) called “CW Good” on CWTV.com.
TJ: What inspired you to get involved with that work?
BALDONI: I was raised in the Bahá’í Faith, and as Bahá’í’s we believe in the unity of all the religions as if we are all different chapters in the same book. We believe in one God, and the foundation of the entire faith is simply love. So whether it’s acting or producing or whatever company I’m trying to do, my goal is to make that work as a form of service to mankind. I’ll never forget the moment I told the Dalai Lama I was a Bahá’í, he got very excited. What the Dalai Lama is preaching and what Bahá’ís believe are so similar. The Bahá’ís believe that the underlying, fundamental truth of all the religions is the same. There are just different social principles that change throughout time.
TJ: How did you feel when you asked the Dalai Lama how you could be a good father and he replied, “Good question ... Wrong person, I have no experience with that.”
BALDONI: Well, I guess I can pride myself in accidentally being one of the only people to stump the Dalai Lama. In his presence, which is so powerful yet humble, I just didn’t feel that what I had to ask or say would be really worthy of taking his time or taking away from the other speakers. At the time, my daughter was maybe seven days old and I was so enraptured and in love with being a new father. I figured, “Let me ask something that nobody is going to ask.” If he was going to answer me, it would be profound and it would be a wonderful story that I could tell my daughter one day — that the Dalai Lama helped me become a better dad. But in reality, his answer was hilarious and fun.
TJ: Is there anything that His Holiness speaks about that you may disagree with?
BALDONI: I’m not one to focus on the points of disagreement. I like the points of agreement; I think that’s where unity starts. If the world could follow one one-hundredth of the teachings of the Dalai Lama or even the Bahá’í faith or Islam or Christianity or whatever it is, then I think that we would actually find peace and unity quicker than we realize. tj
The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.