PASADENA, CALIF. — Danny Glover says that before he was an actor, he was a community activist. "I remember close to 30 years ago, as a student, I took a position on the issue of apartheid." The impact of opposing the oppressive South African political system has stayed with him throughout his acting career. While he won't call his acts courageous, he says that standing up to the face of evil is a good definition of a quality he particularly values - courage.
Now Glover says he wants to use his celebrity to celebrate that virtue.
Beginning Monday, Aug. 7 (9-10 p.m.), he hosts a Fox Family Channel series of profiles called "Courage." "We want to expand the whole idea of courage in the sense that as individuals, we can do courageous things," he says.
The first episode presents a Vietnam medic who saves the lives of his buddies while under enemy fire. These are stories of regular people, Glover says, "who, in times of danger and in times of war, really do things of courage with a capital 'C'...."
The pilot episode also profiles a young boy with prosthetic legs and a senior-citizen crossing guard who takes the impact of a runaway car after pushing two children out of the way.
"We do things courageously every day," says Glover, who is also executive producer. "We want to acknowledge those things ... and we want to show people that it's possible for individuals to change situations and circumstances."
The show examines the qualities that bring out courageous behavior.
"We kind of redefine the whole idea of courage," he says, "from the standpoint of looking at ordinary people who do extraordinary things, which have some impact and change not only in their lives but change the lives of the community."
The show draws from any source - newspapers, word-of-mouth - that brings good material to the attention of the producers, Glover says. "The stories are going to be about sacrifice, whether those sacrifices occur in the context of someone placing his life in danger or whether the sacrifices occur with respect to someone sharing their resources."
While the first episode focuses mainly on single heroic acts, future shows will include a look at a whole life. For example, "I tried to bring as much leverage [as possible] to the courage of Bob Moses," says Glover, who admires Mr. Moses as one of the architects of civil rights activism in 1964. Later, Moses founded The Algebra Project to help African-American students with math studies. "That," Glover says, "demonstrates a great deal of courage to me.... I see someone's lifelong courage as being as powerful as the courage it takes to save someone from in front of a school bus."
The actor, whose movie and TV roles include stories about slavery ("Beloved") and civil rights ("Freedom Song"), as well as playing a cop in the "Lethal Weapon" movie series, says that one of the stories he ran across when putting "Courage" together particularly inspired him. A woman decided that a purse snatcher would not make her give up on today's youth. "She said to me, 'I'm not going to go the whole negative route. I'm going to take a whole other positive route.' "
She made what Glover calls the extraordinary decision to adopt an entire kindergarten class and send them to college.
"She saved her own money, gathered up resources from other sources, and is sending those kids to college."
Giving yet another spin to the reality craze of this summer's TV season, Glover points out that the truth of these stories is what gives them their power.
"They're real life. They're not screened or altered by values someone else has imposed on them," says the series host. They are powerful because of their simplicity, he adds. "They are also a way for people to see themselves through the story."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society