Vincent Irizarry
Copyright (c) 2002
ABC Television
Soap opera fans know actor Vincent Irizarry as the manipulative Dr. David Hayward, head of cardiology at Pine Valley Hospital on the ABC-TV daytime drama "All My Children." The black-haired, rugged actor, 42, has appeared on the series since 1997, when his temporary stint (as a doc who stoops to blackmail and attempted murder to win back his girlfriend) was so popular that he returned in an ongoing role. In 1999 the charismatic bad guy won Soap Opera Digest's Award for Outstanding Villain. Irizarry, 42, has appeared in a long list of soaps, TV series, and films, in which he has played an abusive husband (Marie-A True Story) and a seducer with a double life (Lying Eyes-a staple on Lifetime). What many fans don't realize is that Irizarry is a strong, believing Christian whose faith infuses his life. Formerly married to Santa Barbara co-star Signy Coleman, Irizarry, a father of three, lives with his second wife, Avalon, in a suburb of New York City.

This month Irizarry creates a new role off-camera as the driving force behind an ambitious yearlong walk through the Bible for Christians in his hometown. "God kept putting it on my heart" to help people become more Bible-literate, he notes. He expected about 30 or so sign-ups. Instead, after a personal drive by Irizarry, nearly 200 people from seven churches committed to the program. Irizarry spoke with Beliefnet producer Wendy Schuman about his faith, his struggles with playing bad-guy roles, and whether there's any hope for Dr. David Hayward.

Do you ever feel it's hard to retain your faith and do what you do?
No, my faith informs pretty much everything I do. [Acting] is a very liberal vocation, and there have been times when I've questioned whether this is where I should be in my life as a Christian, whether I should be in the entertainment industry. But then I come up with the answer that I don't believe that God is telling Christians to pull out of the entertainment industry and abandon it to darkness. God has used me in many significant ways in my industry, even on just a personal level, one on one with some of the people I work with.

To be honest, in all different industries and professions, it's hard being a person of faith. The fact is that we're people living in a world that's fallen, so no matter where you turn there are always going to be complications. Do we abandon it? You have a responsibility to bring something to wherever you are. I know that God is infusing light into every business.

God has even used me through fans who have come together to form a group called "Friends of Vincent Irizarry." These are fans who've met on the Internet and started meeting each other at personal appearances I was doing. They came to me a year and a half ago and asked if I'd like to have a fan club. I said it's never really been an interest of mine, and I don't want to be in a situation where people are exalting me, coming together for me. They came up with this wonderful idea-a lot of them are women of faith-they asked, what if we used this as a means to make people aware of some charitable organizations that you're involved in? We had an online auction on Ebay with memorabilia from "All My Children," lunches with people from the cast, a tour of our show-we've raised $25,000 for a group called Hope for New York. In a year and a half we've raised $50,000. Right now we're sponsoring a home for Habitat for Humanity in Pittsburgh.

And this is because I know that God is using me in my industry.

But soap opera plots-with things like infidelity and murder-seem to show the worst of life.

I sometimes hear this from other Christians, how can you be an actor in soap operas and be a Christian? Well, our faith informs us that there's only one perfect human being who ever walked the earth, and all the others we're representing as actors are fallen man. I ask people, what movies are you seeing, what books are you reading that don't have antagonists and protagonists? Every story, when you boil it down to its bare essence, is the story of the battle between good and evil. And every story has a message, that usually good prevails. And that is our experience in life-that good does prevail and that there are consequences from evil. Because of man's fallen nature, people put themselves into situations that have consequences. It's cause and effect.

I could say, OK, I won't play this character on a soap opera, but why don't I play King David, who the Bible says was a man after God's own heart. But King David lusted after another person's wife, committed adultery, killed her husband, and covered it up. So God is showing us that even the best of the people in the Bible had their faults and committed heinous crimes.