OK, guys, time to get real. I had the chance to speak with Justin Baldoni from "Jane The Virgin" last week, and this guy is as majestic as his hair.
In case you haven't seen "Jane The Virgin" (literally, what is wrong with you?), this is Justin Baldoni, aka Rafael Solano.
Baldoni plays Rafael Solano on The CW's hit show, but outside his work on the show, he's committed to inspiring people on a global scale by reminding them of their shared humanity and how important it is to uplift others.
And don't let his physical fitness fool you — he's determined to change the definition of masculinity into one that's not solely about physical strength and never shedding a single tear.
He knows part of being a man means allowing men to feel their emotions fully, being vulnerable and, yes, being a feminist.
When we spoke, Justin was an open book. He didn't shy away from questions lots of men I know are apprehensive to answer. He spoke transparently and from the heart; it was hard not to nod my head with a resounding "YASSS" every time he talked about uplifting women and men so they can reach their highest potential.
Before he was ever on "Jane The Virgin," Justin was running his company, Wayfarer Entertainment, that created a documentary series called "My Last Days."
Referring to "My Last Days," he said,
"My Last Days" is one of the most-watched digital documentary series ever, and you can find all of the videos on YouTube.
This kind of passion for telling brutally honest, passion-filled stories seems to be Baldoni's bread and butter. It's reflected in every project he takes on.
Take his Instagram, for example. Each post is carefully crafted and tells the story of a personal moment in Baldoni's life. Just like his work through Wayfarer, he wants people to know they're not alone and that the human experience is a spiritual journey that is more similar than it is different.
Speaking with him sounds exactly like one of his Instagram captions read aloud — this guy is just plain honest about his life and emotions.
And he's not afraid to uplift women, either. In fact, it's one of the main tenets of his religion.
Baldoni grew up in the Bahá'i faith — a religion that emphasizes the importance of the equality of women and men. (Notably, he says "women and men" instead of "men and women" each time without fail, which is a small but poignant thing to hear. I wonder if he does this intentionally or just out of habit. Either way, I picked up on it.)
He credits his religious upbringing as the main reason he's a feminist (that's a sentence I never thought I would write).
Even though he was raised in a very feminist home, Baldoni says he had the same reaction to having a daughter that lots of men have, meaning he knows his feminist upbringing — and as a result, his daughter's — won't always protect his toddler, Maiya, from the struggles all women eventually face.
He said, "While I was already this way [a feminist] well before my daughter was here, of course then, similar to any kind of marriage, the second I have a daughter, it kind of also becomes more of a slap in the face." He added,
Redefining masculinity is his latest passion project. As you can tell from just about everything he posts, Baldoni is committed to being openly vulnerable with his fans. Vulnerability, according to him, is one of the defining traits in his personal definition of masculinity.
And how does he define masculinity? Well,
His definition of masculinity also applies to the kind of father he is. Check out the hashtag "#dearmaiya" to see all of his posts about fatherhood.
I asked Baldoni what he would say to both young boys and grown men who believe that feminism doesn't have room for them (it does) and feel the movement is aiming to push men out of the conversation (it's not). He said,
And let others shine, he does.
Baldoni uplifts women on social media — and on "Jane The Virgin" — all the time. Whether it be a post dedicated to co-star Gina Rodriguez who he says is "such a fantastic and present actor" and "a wonderful teacher," or a post dedicated to how much he admires his wife, Emily, it's clear just how deeply his admiration for these women runs.
In the show, Rafael is the first person to find Jane after she finds out Michael died. (He literally walks into her apartment while she's being told on the phone.)
In that moment, Baldoni said he wasn't acting, he was just worried about his friend. He said,
As for what the future has in store for Rafael, Jane and Petra (his ex-wife whom he also has kids with), Baldoni says anything is possible.
After Michael's death, there's a three-year time jump. During that jump, Jane copes and starts to heal with the trauma of Michael's death and Rafael spends nine months in prison for covering up his late father's past crimes.
Baldoni says Rafael used his time in prison as a chance to "recalibrate his life," saying, "I think, in many ways, he needed prison."
So now, Rafael is the most mentally healthy we've ever seen him. He says the show's creator keeps them in the dark until she can't any longer, so he has no clue what's in store for Rafael and Jane down the road. But he'd be open to them getting back together (!!!). He said,
"Jane The Virgin" season three is almost up and has been renewed for a fourth season, but while the show isn't filming, Justin reveals he's working on his aforementioned passion project that aims to redefine masculinity.
He said, "We're doing something with Wayfarer Entertainment that's specifically focused on redefining masculinity right now, and I'm really excited about it."
Since the project is still in its early phases, that's all he could tell me about it. But if it's anything like everything else Justin Baldoni has taken on in his career, it will be emotionally raw, honest and soul-baring.