Every fall television season brings the usual assortment of lawyers -- from quirky to wildly renegade -- but Anthony Ruivivar stands out just by showing up on ABC's The Whole Truth. Yes, he's playing prime time's first gay Latino power attorney, but the 39-year-old actor says the character is actually historic because the show doesn't make a huge deal of it. 'It's addressed early on, but it's not some big story point the writers are going to wave around,' says Ruivivar. 'Being an ethnic minority actor, I think it's great to play an ethnically three-dimensional character where it doesn't have to be explained why your character's there -- he just is.'
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, The Amazing Race), Truth centers on the competitive relationship between prosecutor Kathryn Peale (Maura Tierney) and defense attorney Jimmy Brogan (Rob Morrow) as they face off in court. Described by creator Tom Donaghy as 'mystery law,' the series gives equal weight to both sides, also heading behind the scenes with each attorney. Plotwise, Truth seems ready to go places only SVU has dared to tread. Case in point: In the sixth episode, excellently titled 'When Cougars Attack,' a Diane von Furstenberg'type fashion designer (Annabella Sciorra) is accused of killing her young lover.
Ruivivar's character, Alejo Salazar, plays right-hand man to Morrow's Jimmy. 'They're Batman and Robin,' says Ruivivar, 'the nuts and bolts of the firm.' Why the decision to make Alejo gay? 'I'm a gay man, we're in the world everywhere, and why the hell not?' replies Donaghy. 'I was interested in a relationship between a straight guy and a gay business partner. They work as a team without it being an issue. You don't see many stories like that. They work 24/7, play pool at the end of the night, drink scotch, and go home. They're kind of a couple in that way.'
In coming weeks, the show will reveal that Alejo was kicked out of his parents' house after he told them he was gay and that he's now happily partnered. 'We will meet his husband,' says Ruivivar. 'He and his partner are extremely active in the D.C./New York political front. They're out and very proud. They're a power set.'
Ruivivar was born in Honolulu and spent much of his childhood traveling with his father, a musician. He worked for a decade in New York City doing theater (he played a gay grifter in Han Ong's Watcher and wrote a play about people trapped in a bank vault after a robbery), but he's best known for costarring in Third Watch, an action drama about paramedics that ran for six pyrotechnically intense seasons on NBC. (He acted opposite his wife, Yvonne Jung, with whom he has two children.) In his next project, Ruivivar plays sidekick again, this time to Mad Men's John Slattery in 2011's The Adjustment Bureau. 'We chase Matt Damon's character around the entire first section of the film,' he says. 'It's like a sci-fi political love thriller dripping with style.'
In the meantime, Donaghy can't get enough of the style Ruivivar brings to The Whole Truth. 'He's so charming and smart -- he really understands the strategic mind of a lawyer,' he says. 'I can't take my eyes off him when we watch the cuts. He's a powerful actor. And he looks really good in the clothes.'
The Whole Truth airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.