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Taye Diggs Fosters the Next Generation of Artists


The Rent star has a new project and it's like nothing he's done before.

For more than two decades, actor and activist Taye Diggs has shown himself to be one of the most versatile performers of his generation on stage and screen. Since starring in the original cast of Rent on Broadway, Diggs has starred in a slew of films and TV shows, including How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Set it Up on the big screen and TV series All American, Murder in the First, Kevin Hill, Empire, and his NAACP Image Award-winning role in ABC's Private Practice.

He's also been a LGBTQ ally, happily appearing queer, whether it's as the as first black man to star in the title role in Broadway's Hedwig and The Angry Inch, or more recently when he performed in drag on Lip Sync Battle as he channeled Christina Aguilera singing "Candyman."

Now, Diggs has signed on to host the first three episodes of Crossovers, a new half-hour talk show debuting in October on the theater-streaming platform, Stage ( Taped in front of a live studio audience of aspiring theater and film artists, Crossovers features the affable host conversing with high-profile artists who've crossed over from theater to other media such as film, TV, or audio. For Diggs, it's a new but comfortable role.

"It's great to have the opportunity," he says, explaining that he's using his life as a vessel to inspire other young artists. "If you allow yourself to honor the gifts you've been given, good things will happen. So, I'm trying to do that now."

Diggs hopes Crossovers can remind artists the power they have in shaping culture. "I think it's important for [artists] to be the example and act to others the way we expect or want others to treat us," he says, adding that arts education changed his entire life -- not just as an artist, but in making him a more empathic, compassionate man.

These days, Diggs says social media has taken a new role in shaping perspectives. But if he has difficulty adjusting to how fast society is evolving in the digital age, Diggs remembers the advice one of his idols, Whoopi Goldberg, gave him on the set of How Stella Got Her Groove Back: "Keep moving."

"Do everything you can," he echoes. "Back when I was coming up, it was looked down upon if you were a film actor and someone asked you to do TV, or if you were a film actor and you wanted to do commercials or a branding campaign. There were these very delineated lines and limitations. And [Goldberg] said if you were who you are and remain true to yourself, everything will come back around. That was big for me."

Now that he has an opportunity to pass the torch to young artists, Diggs is sharing Goldberg's advice to "do everything you can" in a new way. "Now I feel is one of the best times ever because people have the ability to post a video or tweet or put something on Instagram. People have that. We have been given that freedom, so utilize that or find that place in between being true to who you are and standing up for what you believe in, but at the same time, be understanding of those in opposition. I think that's a struggle that is worth fighting for."

"I feel like we're on the precipice of some really big shit," he says, about the impact of Trump on the arts. "I feel like a lot of art after [Trump] is going to be crazy because people are creating. I think that's always good at the end of the day. That's a force. What we do with it and how people use it is one thing, but at the end of the day, people are creating and I think that's good."

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David Artavia