Wilson Cruz knows how important his role on My So-Called Life was, not just for others, but for himself.
In an interview with People, Cruz talked about what the show meant to him, and how he feels now that new viewers will get a chance to experience the series now that it's coming to Hulu.
When Cruz played 15-year-old gay teen Rickie Vasquez on the show, he became the first out actor to play a gay character in a leading role on American television. For many, he was the first three-dimensional gay character they saw on TV.
"I thank that series for who I am today, it gave me all of the tools I needed and gave me my self-respect. It gave me my family and it gave me direction and the confidence to know that I deserved to live up to my potential," Cruz told People.
The show also brought him closer to his own family. Cruz said it "allowed my father to be able to watch that show and understand what my youth was and then empathize with me enough to allow us to have a relationship again."
Now, he's excited for others to experience that same thing. "The most important part for me is that there's a whole new generation of young people who will get to meet Rickie Vasquez, who is not just this boy going on this journey of self-acceptance, but he also is the model friend," he said.
"I want people to watch this show and see Rickie Vasquez and understand what it means to be a great friend, not only to the people in your life, but to yourself," Cruz added. "And I think Rickie is the best example. He does it. He doesn't lie to you. He respects you. He tells you the truth. He sees all things and he calls you out on it. And that's what a good friend does, but he also, you know, learns to love himself. And that is the biggest lesson here for anyone watching."
Cruz also said that he recently rewatched the series for the first time in years and it still hits just as hard as it did when it first came out. "I watched the episode 'Betrayal' and I ended up in a ball of my own tears," he said. "There's a moment at the end of that episode, where Rickie, after Angela has flirted openly with the boy that he clearly has a crush on, comes to him for advice. And after he gives her the advice, he then chooses to stand up for himself and say to her, 'Hey, that thing that you just did hurt my feelings.'"
While Vasquez started the show as someone who "didn't know who he was, didn't even know what to call himself — if he was bisexual or gay or Latino or African-American or mixed or what," according to Cruz, "by the end of the season, he knows enough about himself and loves himself enough to stand up for himself,"
My So-Called Life, which also starred Claired Danes and Jared Leto, changed a whole generation of young poeple when it first aired it's one and only season on ABC in 1994, and now it's coming to Hulu on March 11 where it can change the lives of even more.