Actress Eliza Dushku Talks About Her Charity Work, Turning Thirty, and The Lakers

Eliza Dushku is many things (besides Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). She is a talented actress who has been in the business for over twenty years and has starred in many memorable films and television shows in her career. She is a newly minted producer who is working on a biopic of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe with her brother Nate. She is also a Boston Celtics fan. But most importantly, she is a humanitarian.

With her thirtieth birthday approaching (the big day is December 30th), she has teamed up with her mother Dr. Judy Dushku, a professor of Government and Comparitive Politics, and Tonic, a digital media site dedicated to philanthropic causes, to launch an initiative to raise $30,000 for a center for former child soldiers in Gulu, Uganda. Her 30-30-30 initiative to raise money for THARCE Gulu (Trauma Healing and Reflection Center) is in full-swing and we got the chance to chat with her about the charity, her experiences in Uganda, and of course the Lakers (Dushku’s boyfriend is former Laker Rick Fox).

You can find out more about the 30-30-30 Initivative and how to donate, as well as watch a video of Eliza and her mother speaking about the project HERE.

(Interview by: Yasi Salek)

Eliza with her brother Nate

BN: What did you achieve in 2010 that you’re most proud of?

ED: As you start to get older you realize how you can truly look at the year and see how much you’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot about becoming a producer being on the other side of the camera with our (Robert) Mapplethorpe project, which is developing in a beautiful way. I’ve learned a lot about where my reach can be.

My mother and I went to Uganda a year and half ago. We’ve always traveled internationally and she would take groups of students along. We didn’t have a lot of money but we traveled and saw the world with her our whole lives. My mom is coming up on turning 70. When she dove into this initiative and said, “This is it. I know I’ve had other things over the years that I’ve wanted to work on and help with, but this is my life mission.”

I went to Utah and see her collect an award and do presentations and fundraising for Tharce Gulu, and that trip re-awakened something in me. It really is a major gift to all of us that we can do this together, reach out and create awareness, raise money and share these people’s stories.

BN: Your mother has been involved in a lot of international charities for a long time. How did she end up settling on Uganda?

ED: She was reading a lot about U.S soldiers who had returned from Afghanistan and Iraq and she thought, “here are these kids who are as young as 18, 19 years old returning home from war.” She’d been studying Post-Traumatic Stress and was taken with it. She started to think about the war in Africa where the kids were eight, nine and ten years old and in war.

The gun manufacturers now manufacture guns for eight and nine year olds. I mean, that’s really happening. She knew about the war in Uganda but she said she really started to take a closer look at these child soldiers and wondered how on Earth she could help. How do you rehabilitate and reintegrate a child back into their community? So she decided to teach a course on the war in Uganda and child soldiers.

Eliza in Gulu, Uganda

BN: And when did you go to Gulu?

At the end of the year (my mother) organized the trip. When we landed in Kampala the university wouldn’t let the students go to Gulu because it was considered dangerous. Instead, five former child soldiers sat with the students and us (Rick and myself). It was unbelievable to hear their stories first-hand. Rick and I weren’t under the university’s liability so we went to Gulu. We visited some of the camps where people had been displaced. They were forced to leave their land and live in really small, cramped camps.

BN: What is the idea behind the center, THARCE Gulu?

ED: We spoke to people like (our host) Lina, who is such a positive and amazing woman. She would get these kids to share their stories, even when they were barely be able to speak about the atrocities they saw. She would encourage them to share their stories because that’s the way to recovery… Using art therapy, film therapy, teaching them how to use computers and document their stories. So in talking with people, we came up with the Tharce Gulu Center, where we will have a place where boys and girls can play soccer and also have the art and film therapy.

BN: That sounds incredible. Once the goal has been reached and the center is set up, do you have any plans to go down and spend time there?

ED: Absolutely. When Tonic got involved and they approached us and said let’s do this 30-30-30 goal and it was about my 30th birthday on December 30th and the $30,000 we needed, it all came together. We launched this campaign a few days ago and whether we make it or not, the train is moving and that’s what we’re thrilled about.

It’s been awesome to feel the support. Whether it extends beyond December 30th or not, the point is really just to get the awareness up. I’m blasting all my Twitter friends. As of last night [I tweeted] Ashton, Bieber and Oprah and asked them to help spread the word.

Tonic set up a beautiful site and so far it’s been incredible reading the Tweets from people. One woman said she sold her school books for money to donate. She said, “I really just got the message and really feel like what I can contribute will benefit people more than I do.” And that’s just epic.

Cover of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Magazine

BN: That’s really inspiring. You know you could always tap the Buffy fans. I’m sure they would give you their kidneys.

ED: [Laughter] I think we’ve had a few kidney donations. No, they are great and they are an international community. I love people who want to donate because they love me and I equally love people who never knew such atrocities even existed. It’s amazing to see this effort grow.

BN: As a huge Lakers fan, I’ve spotted you at more than a few games, but you’re from Boston. Are you spying or are you on our side?

ED: I’m a born and bred Boston Celtics fan. You know I have three older brothers, my father grew up in the south end. I love green, I love the Red Sox and I love my Patriots. I’ve lived in L.A for twelve years now and when I can’t get to my Celtics games back home, I hit the Laker games. You have to watch and see what our rival team is up to. When it counts, I’m all green, baby. Sorry to tell you.

Eliza’s guest role on Big Bang Theory

BN: Your guest appearance on Big Bang Theory was pretty awesome. Do you have any funny anecdotes of what it was like working the cast?

ED: It was so just comfortable. I felt like I had known them all for years. Everyone was so professional and yet having the best time. Kaylee is a total sweetheart and Jim is just incredible to watch and also a great guy. I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had and I loved doing the comedy even though I played a straight character. Rick just shot an episode so he’ll be on it too.

Tru Calling

BN: Amazing! So do you have any plans to returned to TV? Anything in the works?

ED: What I’ve been learning more and more is that you never know. In this business there is no crystal ball. It’s like you take it one day at a time. It’s worked for 20 years. 20 years! I’m coming up on 30 and I feel like there’s going to be some good stuff coming around the corner. A psychic told me once that my life was really going to begin when I was 30. I’m ready.

BN: Your IMDB is about six pages long. Speaking of the crystal ball that is IMDB, it is rumored that you will appear in Ghost Busters 3. Is this happening?

ED: I’m discovering that the Internet creates these rumors that set people going. I’ve heard a few things but they’ve all been on the Internet. We’ll see. I’d love it though. Strap on a proton pack and channel some Sigourney. I’ve known Dan Akroyd since I was 12 years old.

BN: Lastly, what is your New Year’s Resolution?

ED: Just less fear and more action, and more discipline in service because it really does, feel better than anything in the world. I’ve had amazing highs in my career and I’ve had horrible lows, but the more I get outside of myself and get to be of service, even when it just comes to being an aunt or a sister or daughter, the better. My New Years resolution is to stay that course.