On Thursday, May 23, AMC will unveil its new reality series Showville, which Alec Mapa hosts.
The openly gay comedian sees Showville as an opportunity to entertain and to educate. In the series, Mapa will meet "privately" with citizens in various American communities, where he'll coach them in whatever talent they feel they excel in. A talent competition follows.
"A lot of reality TV is very mean-spirited, conflict-driven and about putting people down," Mapa said in an interview with Windy City Times. "In Showville, we celebrate the eccentricity of people. Everybody lets their freak flag fly, and I applaud the loudest."
The AMC cameras follow Mapa into communities such as Athens, Ohio; San Marco, Texas; and South Kingston, R.I., among others. These cities are not known as bastions of gay rights, yet Mapa remained as out, loud and proud as ever. He was surprised, and delighted, to find that some of the contestants were as out of the closet as he.
"Life isn't easy for them," he said. "It takes a lot of bravery to come out in a small town. There's no privacy and everyone's religious."
The freshman season of Showville offers eight episodes and was a very positive experience for the actor and comic. "I'd like to think that it will keep going," he said. "We have all kinds of acts, a ventriloquist, a tap dancer, among others. They're coached, and the winner gets ten grand."
As he always does, Mapa wore his sexual identity on his sleeve during Showville's production. "There's no point in someone like me hiding it," he observed. "You'd have to be headless to not know I'm gay. I come with a lot of baggage and was fearful, but everybody had a great sense of humor. Everybody likes to laugh, so we had fun and laughed. In three days I was gone."
The San Francisco native's career began on an openly gay note, when he joined the Broadway production of the gender bending political drama M. Butterfly. He subsequently made guest appearances on numerous prime time TV series and appeared in films. Also a writer, he starred in I Remember Mapa, his own one man show about growing up gay in San Francisco. His diverse appearances have included hosting Showtime's broadcast of the GAYVN Awardsthe gay porn industry's very own Oscar ceremony. "I love being gay," he announced from the stage of the Castro theater. "And I love porn!"
"My weird surreal life," he said. "Hosting the GAYVN Awards, then driving my 8 year old to school the next day." Mapa married his longtime partner in 2008. The couple have an adopted child.
As a gay family, Mapa and his husband watched the Scotus Proposition 8 and DOMA hearings with great interest. "It sounds like no one wants to be courageous enough to make a broad ruling," he said. "But I believe DOMA and Prop 8 will be struck down."
Mapa is as proud of his Filipino heritage as he is of his gay identity. On June 28, he'll be featured in the PBS Fourth of July documentary Lidia Celebrates America: Freedom and Independence. The show features Lidia Bastianich as she travels across the USA to experience how people from different cultures experience freedom. The host and Mapa will celebrate Philippines Independence Day in New York City. Together they'll visit an ethnic market before returning home to prepare kinilaw, a Filipino dish.
More information is at www.amctv.com .