Get to Know Mason Cook, EGPAF’s New Celebrity Ambassador

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) is thrilled to announce that Mason Cook, the Emmy-nominated star of ABC’s hit series Speechless, has joined our organization as a Celebrity Ambassador! Mason is an accomplished actor with a skyrocketing career, but spends much of his free time fighting on behalf of children’s health causes.

“As an ambassador, I’m looking forward to engaging the next generation of advocates, because their support is crucial to maintaining the momentum needed to finally end this epidemic,” Mason has said.

We are excited to work with Mason. To get to know him better, we sat down for a quick interview. Enjoy!

What made you want to get involved with EGPAF?

I first learned about EGPAF when I was invited to the “A Time for Heroes” event in 2012 around the time my first movie, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World,” was coming out. My dad educated me about AIDS and the devastating impact it has had around the world. What I was drawn to with the foundation is that it focuses on kids – a demographic that cannot fight for itself and a lot of times gets overlooked in research funding and outreach. As a kid, for one more year at least, I like to be a voice and advocate for other kids.

As a young person who has taken an interest in advocacy and activism, what advice would you give to other members of your generation who are just starting to get involved in social justice movements and charitable causes?

My family has always made charitable giving a part of our lives. My older sister, Lilly, is strongly devoted to raising awareness and research funds for childhood cancer so she started a non-profit jewelry business and donates all her proceeds to a foundation in that area.  I was immediately touched by EGPAF and another organization called Shane’s Inspiration. The thing my sister and I have in common is that we both advocate for things that are important to us and feel personal. Passion about your cause is critical.

My advice to other young people is (a) don’t let being a kid be a reason to not get involved, and (b) find what touches you, what feels personal and ignites a fire within you and then find ways you can get involved. There is so much information out there; it is really pretty easy to do!

In addition to being an EGPAF Ambassador, you are involved with Shane’s Inspiration. How did you get involved with their work, and what inspires you about their mission?

Shane’s Inspiration is an amazing organization that builds inclusive playgrounds all over the world so that our “differently-abled friends” can experience the joys of playgrounds without the limitations found on typical playgrounds. I learned about Shane’s through my ABC TV series, “Speechless.” Our show’s creator, Scott Silveri, was honored at their big gala fundraiser so the whole cast went to support him. I was blown away and asked the next day how I could be a part of their mission.

Being on a series about a family with a special needs son and working every day with an actor who has Cerebral Palsy has opened my eyes to so many of the unfair challenges and stereotypes disabled people face. I am an ambassador for Shane’s Education Program, so I go into K-12 schools and help educate typical kids, in the hopes that bullying, stereotypes and discrimination can be a thing of the past. Everyone should get to play on a playground, and because of Shane’s Inspiration, now they can!

How do you view the role of artists and/or celebrities in social justice causes and movements?

For me, acting has never been about the fame. I do it because I love it, but there is no denying that we, as celebrities, can reach a large audience and help spread the word about social justice causes and movements. We have a very blessed life and it would be an injustice to not use our heightened visibility as a platform to make a difference.

If you could design your next role from scratch, what would it be?

I am told repeatedly that I seem like an old soul, so it is no surprise that my ideal role would be a period piece from WWI or WWII, or a 1930s gangster pic like Public Enemies.

What made you want to become an actor?

Honestly, I was not the kid in every school play and I never took a class or had training. I tried acting at 8 years old after moving to Los Angeles from Oklahoma because I figured we lived where it all happens and it seemed like it might be fun. I was always a bit of a class clown and not easily intimidated, so after signing with an agent and manager I started auditioning. I booked my first TV role on Grey’s Anatomy and first commercial was Dunkin’ Donuts right out of the gate and have been working ever since. I literally cannot imagine not being an actor because I love everything about it – even the long hours.

Besides Speechless, what’s your favorite TV show?

Homeland. My older brother, Lane, my dad, and me have a weekly ritual of watching it together. I have been a dedicated fan since season one!

Is there anything you’re a total geek about, and why?

Oh so many thing! Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a big-time animal geek. I know all kinds of facts and I’m not afraid to share them. All of them! I recently started ‘geeking out’ over cars. All kinds of cars – classic ones, sports cars. It’s a new passion, but I think it’s here to stay.