Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Why ‘Jane the Virgin’ Star Justin Baldoni Is Redefining Masculinity

Actor Justin Baldoni speaks on stage at during the Cannes Lions 2019. Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions

You’re either going to side-eye Justin Baldoni, or he’s going to be your new man-crush. At just shy of 37 years old, he’s already got an arm-long resume as an actor, producer, director, and writer. He’s got his own production company, a charitable foundation, and yes, he’s even had a TED talk. And yes, he’s incredibly handsome, is in tip top shape, and has two adorable kids. What’s worse? He actually cares. About people. And he’s on a mission to change what it means to be a man.

Head in the Clouds

Baldoni got his start playing parts on soaps like The Young and The Restless, going on to roles in prime time dramas like Everwood and Blackout. He really caught our attention, though, as the handsome homme fatal Rafael Solano on The CW network’s telenovela send-up Jane The Virgin. He founded Wayfarer Studios so he could focus on producing purpose-driven “radically sincere film and television content.” The studio won multiple awards for the documentary series My Last Days, about people living with terminal illness. It premiered the film Clouds in October on Disney Plus; a biopic about Zach Sobiech, a high school student and musician whose music topped the charts as he lived out his final days with terminal osteosarcoma bone cancer. 

“Clouds is performing really well. It’s exceeded expectations,” Baldoni tells The Manual, “which I’m really happy about. It’s resetting people in an important way. It went viral recently on TikTok with all of these young people watching it and filming themselves and trying not to cry. It’s really sweet because so often we can stop ourselves from feeling all the things we need to feel. I want to make movies that remind people that they are living, breathing human beings, and that sometimes watching somebody else’s struggle can unlock and release your own. It goes back to empathy and compassion. Feeling breeds compassion which breeds empathy which breeds humanity. You can see yourself in somebody else. That is being human.

White T-shirt Wardrobe

His now-viral 2017 TEDTalk, “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough;’” was his take on toxic masculinity and male behavior. In it, Baldoni describes several of his onscreen roles as “Shirtless Date Rapist, Shirtless Medical Student, and Shirtless Steroid-Using Con Man.” So when we had the chance, we had to ask him, when he is wearing a shirt, what does he prefer? 

“I have eight white t-shirts that are identical,” Baldoni says, tugging at the collar of the broken-in crewneck pocket tee he’s wearing at the moment. Walking us over to his closet he showed five more (the others were in the laundry) hanging with only a few other items. “I’ve had them for five years. Originally I had fifteen, so I’ve destroyed the others I wear them so much. I generally wear the same things over and over again. I’m about convenience and comfort, and I don’t like to think too much about what I’m going to wear that day. What’s cool is you can have these things that are your go-to pieces forever, and then you can accent them with whatever is hot that season. I can wear this same shirt, but throw on a cardigan or a suit jacket, and then it’s a whole new wardrobe; but I’m still wearing the thing underneath that makes me feel comfortable.” 

Boldoni also has a penchant for simple white sneakers. “They’re actually super cheap. I  have four or five different pair and buy them on Amazon for twenty or thirty dollars.” 

Unprompted he goes on to say, “It starts with underwear. For a long time I wondered where was the underwear for men that was as soft and comfortable as women’s? My wife has all these pairs that are soft and ‘spandex-y’ and you can’t see the lines under pants. So I used to wear boxer shorts, but I found these Pair of Thieves briefs at Target and they’re so stretchy and comfortable I don’t feel like I’m wearing anything.” 

Speaking of his wife, actress Emily Baldoni, we asked Justin about the black ring he wore, assuming it was his wedding ring. “This is actually not my wedding ring. It’s an Oura Ring. I’m a bit of a biohacker, and am really into the optimization of our bodies through data. I like wearables and being able to measure and see the effect stress has on my body, and then it’s a constant game to figure out how to reduce it. This tracks how much I sleep and when I’m in REM sleep, my resting heart rate, and my heart rate variability. But my wedding ring is a way cooler thing. I was born on my grandparents’ anniversary, but I never met my grandfather. He was an Italian-American immigrant who came to America in 1912 and became a state senator in South Bend, Indiana. My Nana and I are very close, so when I got married, she gave me his wedding ring. One day while shooting Jane The Virgin I lost it. I swore if I found it again I wouldn’t wear it shooting anymore, and, by the grace of God we found it. It was a miracle! My wife and I decided to get tattoos instead.” Baldoni bears his wife’s initials — in her handwriting — on his left ring finger. 

Justin Baldoni attends AOL Build Presents: “Jane The Virgin” at AOL Studios In New York on May 20, 2016. Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

Being Man Enough

A follower of the Bahá’í faith, Baldoni brings a strong sense of mission to all that he does. That TED talk was just the start. Man Enough, is his web series of candid dinner conversations about why men don’t talk, the #MeToo movement, fatherhood, and gender bias. The Man Enough website hosts related content as an ongoing conversation. He’s also got a three-book deal with Harper Collins, and Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity will be released April 2017. 

“’Abdu’l Bahá said, ‘Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor.’ There was something about that quote that really touched my heart,” says Baldoni. “It reminded me that we can be in a position of privilege, but what are we doing with our platform and our voice to actually relieve some of that suffering? Suffering is always going to exist, but for those of us who are comfortable, what are we doing to help those who are just downright uncomfortable. The Wayfarer Foundation is where we are doing a lot of work in and around Skid Row (a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles infamous for a homeless problem that extends back to the 19th century), working with the unhoused population. We’ve launched a peer mentoring program called Wayfarer 1:1, part of our Be Love Give Love campaign. It’s being run by my dear friend Melvin who was on the street himself five years ago. We believe that people who’ve had the experience of being on the street are uniquely situated to be able to help someone else get off the street. 

“We have to destigmatize what it means to be unhoused and stop ‘other-izing’ those folks,” he says. “Homelessness is a human issue. It’s not going to be solved by policy, it’s not going to be solved by politics: It’s going to be solved by recognizing that the person you pass by on the street or drive by every day on the corner, who has a sign up, or who’s begging for food, is a son, a brother, a daughter, a friend, a mother, a father, or an uncle, who had a dream once just like you do. We have to tap into our empathy and start to see ourselves in those people. 

“When the pandemic hit there was some crazy percentage of millennials who had no savings account, and who were one disaster away from being homeless. Luckily most had families they could go to for help, but what if you didn’t? We don’t think about people who don’t have options. If they can’t pay the rent, their home is foreclosed, or they lose their job, whatever it is; what happens when they end up on the street? For me the question was, how do we humanize the situation? The point of the Wayfarer Foundation is to change the way we respond to homelessness. Can I start to see you as a friend,  instead of somebody who’s going to decrease my property value?”

Clouds In My Coffee

Successful actor, director, producer, family man, and humanitarian, one might begin to wonder where Baldoni gets the energy to keep up with it all. Of course we found out his dark secret: It’s coffee. 

Justin has been working with Philips on the launch of its new series of automatic espresso machines. “This machine has been a lifesaver, especially during the pandemic when you can’t go out. Occasionally, because I want to support our local coffee shop, I’ll order something in advance and give the baristas a tip because they’re working; but to be able to press a button and get the same thing I would order from a shop, whenever I want, and have it actually taste better because I’m using my own beans — that I know are healthier — that’s a huge win. The machine is not necessarily cheap, however, most people don’t realize how much coffee they drink. If you go to a coffee shop for a latte every day, that adds up! One of these can pay for itself in a couple of months.”

Best of all, you can use either fresh beans or ground coffee to make espresso drinks or regular coffee. The brand has also incorporated a module called the LatteGo into certain models that steams milk for lattes or cappuccinos like a pro, and can even go into the dishwasher for easy clean-up. Simply put, it’s an essential kitchen gadget during our stay-at-home reality.

What’s up next for Baldoni? While he will keep acting, there are no firm projects in the works right now. He’ll continue to focus on directing and producing (Look for Love You Anyway, a film about mental health issues, shot mostly on iPhone; and part of Wayfarer Studio’s The Six Feet Experiment.) 

“Every day is a new opportunity, and I get a clean slate to be the husband, father, and friend I want to be,” Baldoni says. “A lot of folks might think I’m an overachiever, but all that comes with sacrifice, and it might not be a sacrifice I’m proud of or that I want to make. If I don’t succeed at hitting all my goals or my deadlines; if I drop the ball, that’s okay. I have to be kind to myself and remember that I’m human and I’m flawed. We only get so many breaths and heartbeats in a life and have to be conscious of those things. We have to remember to have empathy and compassion for ourselves, especially men who are socialized to be ‘alphas’ and right about everything. At the end of the day we’re human.” 

And we need a lot of coffee. 

Editors' Recommendations

John Jones
John Jones is a Jersey City, New Jersey-based writer who enjoys covering design in all its forms, from fashion to…
The 10 best action movies on Amazon Prime that will blow you away
From The Tomorrow War to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, these are the best movies you can watch on Amazon Prime
how to watch the tomorrow war online

There's a reason action movies are so popular. The best action movies can thrill you with a dazzling combination of car chases, fight scenes, and special effects. The best action movies can also, and this is important, be wonderfully dumb. Indeed, the plot of an action movie is typically fairly unimportant, as long as the set pieces that get you from sequence to sequence are compelling enough. If you're looking for some great action, you don't need to look much further than these, which are some of the best action movies on Amazon Prime. Whether your goal is to find something gritty and realistic or something completely silly but joyous nonetheless, Prime has plenty of great movies to choose from.

For more great action movies, you can check out the best action movies on Netflix or the best action movies on Hulu.

Read more
The 11 best Sean Connery movies of all time
These films starring the Scottish actor rise above the rest
best sean connery movies ranked seanconnery1

Connery leans on the classic Bond Aston Martin on the set of Goldfinger.
If you're too young to remember the hype around Sean Connery, ask your parents or grandparents what it was like to be a movie fan during his era of stardom. There wasn't a person on the planet who didn't immediately think of Connery when listing the actors with the biggest screen presence. But what is it that makes this man so incredibly iconic? Could it be because he never changes his voice for movies because “the emotions should be the same, internationally”? Perhaps it’s because of his unique Scottish accent that any novice impersonator is sure to try and mimic. All we know for sure is: Connery’s James Bond is -- for an overwhelming majority -- the best and most memorable of all 007 iterations in history.
Though his big on-screen break was as the devilishly handsome and smooth secret agent, real fans know that Sean Connery was much more than that. Besides being a respectful, earnest, and successful actor, Connery spent his first 25 years -- starting at the age of 7 -- working manual labor jobs and eventually joining the Royal Navy at 16. Truly a man of many hidden talents, he also took dance lessons for 11 years, was offered a soccer contract with Manchester United, and also spent time working as a nude model for art students after being honorably discharged from the military.
There are so many reasons to love the late, great Sir Sean Connery, but we are here to praise him for his most memorable on-screen performances. Yes, James Bond will, of course, be mentioned, but we also bring out the later films in his career that made him so much himself. So mix yourself a vodka martini “shaken, not stirred” and help us celebrate the shining star that was Sean Connery.

Dr. No (1962)

Read more
The best James Bond books by Ian Fleming
Want the thrill of adventure from the safety of your couch? Then crack open any of these James Bond books
best ian fleming james bond books ranked flemming book tour getty images

We all have our favorite version of the iconic British secret agent that is Bond, James Bond. But before we thank Connery or Craig for their on-screen portrayals of the spy, we need to bow to Ian Fleming, a naval intelligence officer turned novelist who gained literary acclaim for being the author of the James Bond books.

He wrote “thrillers designed to be read as literature” and, while publishing over a dozen books, cracked open a world of exotic adventure, ultimate babes, gadgets, and gear, ultimately shaping the spy genre as we know it. When you want to dive into the thrill and adventure of working for the MI6 - while in your pjs on the couch - we've put together a list of Ian Fleming’s best James Bond books, and what makes them live and let die.

Read more