I've watched and even cheered on occasion when a Real Housewife has tossed a glass of wine at a frenemy. I've held my breath waiting for a judging panel to give an amateur celebrity and his professional dance partner a score. But I also know that reality television is capable of shining a light on people who deserve to be known and even of enacting social change. (I vividly remember Pedro marrying Sean in The Real World: Los Angeles house and being touched and amazed.) In the three-night CW event series My Last Days, the reality stars are regular people living out many of our greatest fears. The documentary tells the stories of people with terminal illnesses and how they're making the most of the time that they have. My Last Days is hosted by Justin Baldoni, a familiar face to CW audiences.
Baldoni will be back on the network in the fall in his regular gig: playing Rafael Solano in the hour-long dramedy Jane The Virgin, which is going into its third season. Baldoni is a core member of the show's ensemble and has been since the pilot. Rafael is the father of Jane's (Gina Rodriguez) son Matteo and also one point on Jane The Virgin's central love triangle. While Jane worried initially that Rafael was a bit of a player, he's completely committed to their accidental miracle baby and, much to Michael's chagrin, still stuck on Jane.
Baldoni's spot on one the CW's most beloved shows put him in a great position to bring a passion project to the masses. But what inspired him to focus on terminally ill subjects? The actor and filmmaker recently spoke to The Huffington Post about where this idea came from. Baldoni was raised in the Bahá'í Faith; the religion's official site lists "the oneness of humanity and freedom from prejudice" as one of its guiding tenants. It was a Bahá'í quote that started the My Last Days project. If people who knew they were dying could be more productive and loving than ever, then couldn't their stories encourage others to live their lives to the fullest? Baldoni said:
And, I will never forget — one night I was at my computer desk and this idea hit me — it actually came from a quote in the Bahá’í writing: “I’ve made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore doth thou grieve?” And I just thought, “Wow, here is something that is talking about death becoming joyful!” And that kind of blew my mind.
My Last Days premiered first as a web series on YouTube and found an eager audience. An episode about 17-year-old cancer patient Zach Sobiech has over 14 million views so far. Once the web series showed legs, Baldoni founded the company Wayfarer to produce both brand campaigns and more content with a message. (Those Wells Fargo "A Day In The Life" commercials that feature Baldoni and his wife and child are Wayfarer productions.)
Baldoni's Wayfarer and the CW are now partnering on an initiative called CW Good, a digital portal that encourages CW stars to share information about the causes they support with their audience. "My Last Days is kind of the poster child for what that platform is," Baldoni told The Huffington Post.
My Last Days host Justin Baldoni is definitely taking a cue from the series' brave subjects and not wasting a single creative moment.
Image: Justin Baldoni/The CW; Giphy