Author Michael Kearns Photo courtesy of Michael Kearns

Michael Kearns, actor, writer, producer, teacher and gay activist, is prolific, having built an astonishingly deep resume of work over a 40-year career in Hollywood.

He will talk about his career, political activism and book, “The Drama of AIDS: My Lasting Connection With Two Plays That Survived the Plague,” as part of Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Author Series this Sunday.

In addition to having created an impressive body of work, Kearns also made history — twice. In the mid 1970s, in his early 20s, Kearns was the first mainstream television and film actor to come out as gay in a company town, Hollywood, that was then strongly homophobic among network and studio brass. Only a few short years after the Stonewall Riots in New York that launched the gay rights movement, coming out of the closet was not common, and certainly not in Hollywood. His coming out marked his gradual transition into political activism.

“I didn’t want to live that life of camouflage,” said Kearns. “I don’t think my political consciousness formed then. I just intuitively knew. As a result of coming out, my political persona began to form.”

Then in 1991 in another unprecedented move, Kearns announced on “Entertainment Tonight” that he was HIV positive, something no working actor had previously done. “Artistically, coming out as HIV positive opened huge gates, vistas and panoramas for me,” said Kearns. “At first it was weird. When I came out as gay, I often then played gay roles. When I came out as HIV positive, I played that role for a couple of years.”

Kearns revealed his HIV status because he had watched too many friends and associates die. For his own integrity and truth, it was something he had to do.

“I wonder if the drive I have is because of so much suffering during the plague years,” he said quietly. “I’ve never gotten out of that. But whatever I do, whatever project, it needs to speak to me in a deep way.”

When asked whether his activism or identity as an artist is most important, Kearns made an interesting distinction. “I’ve had my foot in both for many years, artistry and service.” He views his activism on behalf of LGBT, women’s and gay rights issues, as service. “I’m less interested in theatrical experiences that don’t speak or inform my activism,” he noted.

Although he writes, directs, produces and teaches, it is acting that fuels his passion and on which all other aspects of his career are based. “My earliest training, love and passion is acting,” he said. “That is the filter I use, the platform from which everything else is built.”

As teacher he tells his students, “There is a difference between wanting to be a star and training as an actor. Acting should not be a shortcut. Throughout an actor’s entire career, they never stop rediscovering their own instrument and tools.”

Even at age 63, Kearns is a work in progress, His latest discovery has to do with his adopted daughter, Katherine, a recent graduate of Idyllwild Arts Moving Pictures Department. “When she was young, I didn’t work as much. Now she is going to college in London. I’ll probably work more.”

As to what he will discuss with Santiago at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 16, on the upper deck of Café Aroma, Kearns said, “Whatever the audience wants to hear, that is what I’ll discuss.”