When I hop on a phone call with Matt McGorry and Justin Baldoni to discuss their talk show Man Enough, what quickly transpires is a taste of what the upcoming series is actually like. Seriously, Baldoni straight-up pauses at one point to say, "By the way, Jamie, this is the show. What you're experiencing right now is literally what it is." The bromance between McGorry and Baldoni is undeniable, yet doesn’t feel the least bit forced. In between sincerely complimenting one another, the pair shares their thoughts on everything, including male privilege, saying the wrong thing, and as McGorry puts it, being “really f*cking sensitive.”
Both guys starred on hit TV shows — for McGorry, this would be Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder, and Baldoni’s claim to fame is Jane The Virgin. Along the way, they were placed on an internet pedestal for speaking out on topics their male counterparts often stay quiet about. Baldoni embraces feminism and fatherhood on social media. McGorry is vocal about Black Lives Matter, abortion rights, and protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Yet just as quickly as McGorry was deemed a “woke bae” by the internet, he had the title seemingly stripped away. In 2016, he came under fire for creating t-shirts to benefit NARAL and promoting them on International Women's Day; some claiming he made the holiday about himself. But don’t think he hasn't learned a lesson about activism.
"Rather than seeing that as a sign of weakness, I see that as a sign of strength."
As the 31-year-old explains, "I realized that there would be obviously things that I didn't know, but I think I didn't know how much I wouldn't know." He stepped back and thought more deeply about his role in such conversations, now understanding "that as a man who's interested in anti-sexism and a white person who's interested in anti-racism that my role is different than a woman who's interested in anti-sexism or a person of color who's interested in anti-racism."
“I realized this was tending to fall in line with the greater history of the feminist movement," McGorry explains, "which is that people with the most privilege tend to be the ones that get put on the highest pedestal.” And yes, he admits that includes “white straight male celebrities like myself.”
As much as you might’ve rolled your eyes in the past, it seems clear this guy was coming from a good place. In fact, he’s “eternally grateful” that Baldoni invited him to participate in the talk show, which dives into “a very vulnerable conversation, a very easy place to f*ck up." He adds, "I know this from personal experience because I've f*cked up, and I will continue to, I'm sure."
Baldoni, who hasn’t publicly faced that same scrutiny, actually credits McGorry as the reason. “It's really cool to have a brother on the journey, because I'm like ‘oh yeah, help me not say stupid sh*t.’” Still, he knows that he might not say things perfectly either. “Because that's how I was raised saying it, because I was raised around my 75 white male friends that never had to deal with that,” Baldoni says.
"Things are changing, and it's OK to embrace other parts of yourself. And it's OK to be vulnerable."
But, you’d be wrong if you thought they weren’t trying their best to make the world a better place. Which, by the way, is the entire point of their show. It's a "team of men who are actively trying to be better human beings," Baldoni says.
As for the simple message he wants to convey to his fellow men, Baldoni explains, “Don’t just be the way you are because that's the way your dad was, or your uncle was, or your grandpa was. Things are changing, and it's OK to embrace other parts of yourself. And it's OK to be vulnerable. And it's OK to admit you're wrong.”
Meanwhile, McGorry embraces his vulnerability point-blank: "I feel like I can be much more authentic now that I'm no longer trying to unconsciously steer myself away from my true nature, which is frankly that I'm really f*cking sensitive." And given this change of heart, the actor adds, "Finally, I'm really actually loving that... Rather than seeing that as a sign of weakness, I see that as a sign of strength."
McGorry also recognizes the need to “lovingly” hold his fellow man accountable. And that’s relevant when talking about the recent sexual assault and harassment allegations pouring out of Hollywood.
"We have a lifetime of turning the other way that has really eroded the foundation of our integrity," McGorry says. "So when the time comes and we are someone who's in the circle with someone like a Harvey Weinstein or we hear these allegations, we by default do what we've always practiced doing." However, he says these are opportunities to "reeducate ourselves and to push back.” He says Weinstein's alleged behavior is "the most abhorrent versions of sexism," exhibiting "the level of dehumanization that he feels towards women."
But again, McGorry knows "women are going to have the answers to that better than men are, because they are the ones that deal with these problems on a daily basis," as far as actual systematic changes. "I think as men it is our responsibility to support those decisions."
Baldoni agrees with McGorry’s statement, and then shifts the focus to ensuring the next generation understands boundaries: "The pendulum is now swinging very far in the other direction, and it's understandable because women are angry and they should be... And there's a small opening in the culture where they get to step in and say, 'This happened to me, this is wrong.' I think we have to deal with it by doubling down on prevention and education."
This is a topic they plan to explore on a future Man Enough episode. In the meantime, Baldoni acknowledges change can happen simply by calling out peers' "not cool" behavior. Although, some situations require a more direct approach: “If one of your boys admits to raping a girl, then you better stand up and f*cking say something, you have to. It's your obligation, not as a man, but as a human being.”
Still, he has empathy for men who stay silent in scenarios like that and more. "It's very difficult to come out and say, 'Oh, I'm a feminist,' or 'I believe in this,' because the chances are we're going to screw up... So it's so much easier to stay in this little box and not say something wrong, but then there's no growth."
That’s why the pair is continuing to fight for what's right. Sure, their talk show is geared toward men, but there’s plenty we can all take away from it. It’s like the crash course in gender studies 101 anybody can benefit from.
"I don't know about you, but I could just hear Matt McGorry talk all day," Baldoni says at one point, and honestly he's not wrong. When their show Man Enough launches in December (along with a potential podcast), you'll have that very chance.