Over 200 students gathered at the St. John the Evangelist library on October 9 for the semester’s “Outside the Box” event featuring Hollywood actors Paul Rugg, Tom Wilson, and Matthew Galvan. Rugg, nominated for nine Emmy Awards and winner of three, works as a writer, producer, and voiceover actor. Known for playing the infamous character Biff from the “Back to the Future” trilogy, Wilson has acted, performed stand-up comedy, and produced content for the entertainment industry for over thirty years. Galvan is the newest cast member of Studio C, a sketch-comedy show with over 2.3 million subscribers on Youtube.
Drawing from personal experience, the three actors spoke to Christendom students about pursuing careers in the arts, preserving their Catholic faith in Hollywood, and the growing need for Catholic, liberal arts-educated students in the film industry.
Rugg, whose daughter is a current junior at the college, remarked how Catholics –including Christendom students –are especially called to enter the Hollywood industry and make an impact for the better.
“As Catholics, we tend to think of Hollywood as that ‘crazy culture over there.’ We are called – we have an obligation – to get into that industry. We need to be there to change the conversation,” he urged.
Wilson, speaking to attendees over Skype, described his passion for the creative arts. Growing up, he didn’t fit in with his peers and loved to write and perform. He doubted whether he would be able to make a living while pursuing an acting career. Despite his fears, Wilson followed his passions and ended up where he is today – all while preserving his Catholic faith and helping to witness to the truth in Hollywood.
“If you’re asking yourself, ‘Can I be a creative artist in some way?’ My message to you is yes. You can do it. We need you out there,” he told students. “Can you practice your faith in the entertainment industry? Can you be a Catholic? Absolutely. Will it be a challenge? Absolutely.”
Wilson stressed a recurring message: Follow your heart. However, he reminded students to pursue their passions with the right intentions because, as he’s witnessed first-hand, the desire to attain fame and wealth is empty and vain.
“Follow your heart,” he told students, “but pay attention to what your heart follows.”
Galvan, similar to Wilson, discovered his passion for performing and producing films at an early age. He recalled borrowing his dad’s camera as a kid to make films with his cousins. In eighth grade, a friend introduced him to the Studio C series, and Galvan was instantly drawn toward clean comedy. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, and he realized that it filled a unique but much needed niche.
However, as he grew older, he didn’t think that pursuing a career in the entertainment industry was possible, or that if he did pursue it, he’d have to abandon his faith and values.
“I didn’t think that as a Catholic I would be able to enter the industry, have a Catholic family, and teach my own children the values of the Catholic faith if I’d be forced to do stuff against my Catholic beliefs,” Galvan admitted.
He was proven wrong. Mentored by Rugg, Galvan pursued his interest in acting and landed a role in BYUtv’s clean-comedy show, Studio C.
“There are good people in the industry, even people who aren’t Catholic. You find them in the industry and cling to them. Otherwise, you’ll fall through the cracks and lose your soul,” he said.
Galvan also emphasized the importance of networking – after all, it’s how he was able to begin his career in Hollywood, thanks to Rugg.
Galvan encountered many opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with his fellow cast members about his faith and morals. Building off of Galvan’s personal experiences, Rugg opened up about the New Evangelization and the opportunities that the industry offers for impacting the culture for Christ – from making the sign of the cross at meals to engaging others in conversation about Catholicism.
Wilson, too, related his experiences of offering to pray for cast members and actors who told them of some form of family difficulty. Referring to his own interactions with atheists and fallen-away Catholics alike, Wilson told students that “they recognize [that there is] a greater power within you than there is in the world.” He emphasized the importance of sanctifying grace, the firm foundation that Catholics have in the Eucharist, and the great opportunities that are out there for faithful Catholics in Hollywood.
After the talk, Rugg, Wilson, and Galvan interacted with the students during a Q&A session and offered a comedy improv workshop.
The actors’ first-hand accounts offered students encouragement and direction in their pursuit of the arts. Because of their solid liberal arts education, creativity, and extensive network, Christendom students are one step ahead of their peers in pursuing careers in the entertainment industry. The “Outside the Box” speaker series is organized by the college’s career development office and has hosted such notable guests as U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, philanthropists Tim Bush and Declan Ganley, Sr. Joseph Andrew, O.P., and will welcome journalist and author John McCaslin next semester on March 25.
This article was written with contributions from Avery Thomas (’22)