I didn't remember Manu Bennett from Xena when I first saw him speak this past June. But after I heard him speak, I immediately looked him up. In the midst of a good, but somewhat, bubblegum panel on the making of the Shannara Chronicles, he got real, suggesting that art could be a force for change.
Pushing the envelope on these things [brown skinned actors being called for lead roles] is something art is capable of and I just wonder when we are going to start doing it. -Manu Bennett
The man is a muscled, gorgeous actor who tends to play fighters in shows that are often too violent for me to watch. I was captivated by his willingness to be so real in that moment. As the panel was closing, he interrupted the moderator to acknowledge the other people not present on the stage and asked to include them in the thanks.
After this, I was very intrigued. I skipped the more popular Clark Gregg panel to hear Manu speak again a couple of days later. At first the panel was primarily fan questions about who would win against whom in a street fight and which super heroes he would like to play. And then someone asked about his role as Crixus on Sparticus. And he did it again. You can see the portion of the video here.
In 5 minutes he touches the heart of transformation and change and forgiveness. I've wanted to write about this since June. Instead my summer became full of funerals, starting a few days later, my ex-husband died. The father of my children. One of my oldest friends, if recently less close. And all summer I have carried this memory with me- the story Manu told about the heart of forgiveness while I sat in costume in the Denver Convention Center and sobbed. And it comforted me in a strange way.
Actors and politicians can speak and touch hundreds, thousands of strangers. But the power of what Manu did for me is rooted in his humanness. And we can, each of us, choose to be that human with one another at any moment. And while it may not change the masses, it will affect those with whom we interact.